JONESBORO — A stifling defense helped Valley View make the state football playoffs as the third-place team from the 5A-East conference.

If the Blazers are to advance beyond tonight’s first round in Class 5A, they will probably have to be in top form on that side of the ball.

Valley View (7-3) travels to high-scoring Magnolia, the second-place team from the 5A-South. The Panthers (5-5) averaged 53.8 points per game in conference play, 39.0 for all games, with a run-based flexbone offense.

“They score a lot of points and they can score in a hurry,” Valley View coach Sean Cockrell said. “You look back and it’s 77 points, 53, 61, and you start looking at the stats of their running backs, and they’re averaging 15, 16 yards a carry. It’s going to be a challenge for us.

“One positive for us is we played Wynne pretty well in this offense, and they’re a little different in what they do, but for the most part we feel like we’ve got it down. It’s just whether we can make plays or not.”

The Blazers have made the plays far more often than not this fall. Valley View gave up just 48 points in seven 5A-East games. League champion Nettleton scored just 14 points on the Blazers, while runner-up Wynne also had only two offensive touchdowns.

Linebackers Jaden Wells, Cooper Lutz and Brian Huff lead a defense that had three shutouts in conference play. Wells has a team-high 110 tackles, including 14 behind the line of scrimmage. Lutz is next with 80 tackles, while Huff has 66 stops, including nine behind the line of scrimmage.

End Mario Crawford, a Division I prospect, also has 14 tackles for loss, including five sacks. Safety Carson Winters is another sure tackler with 59 tackles.

“I feel like we’ve played great. We’ve kind of stifled people and they’ve had to try to do things they don’t want to do,” Cockrell said. “You even go back to the Wynne game and they only scored twice on offense. We’ve kind of held people in check and we’ve got to continue to do that, be great, great tacklers, because they will make you miss.

“That’s one thing we’ve harped on this week, that we’ve got to be great tacklers and can’t let them get out in the open field, because if they do, we won’t be able to catch them.”

Magnolia, which was 5-1 in league play, is coming off a 77-48 victory over Hope. The Panthers scored 53 points against Texarkana, 61 against Hot Springs Lakeside, 45 against Hot Springs and 62 against De Queen. Their lone conference loss was a 44-25 setback against 5A-South champion Camden Fairview.

Deraylen Williams, a 225-pound senior, leads Magnolia with 1,486 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing. Kendrick Carey has scored 13 touchdowns while running for 929 yards.

“It may be the best fastest team we’ve seen,” Cockrell said. “You take two or three guys, and the fullback is huge, 6-1, 225 or 230 pounds, and can run. They remind you a lot of Wynne.”

The Blazers’ offense features sophomore quarterback Carson Turley, the team’s leading rusher (509 yards, nine touchdowns). Turley has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 863 yards and four touchdowns.

Valley View is in the 5A playoffs for the fifth season in a row. While the Blazers went as far as the semifinals while they were in Class 4A, they are still looking for their first postseason win at the 5A level.

“We’ve been in the playoffs a bunch, but we’ve never gotten past that first-round game,” Cockrell said. “It’s going to be tough, but I think this is an opportunity that we can.”