5A-East teams ready to begin state playoffs

Nettleton and Batesville will both be at home in the opening round of the state football playoffs Friday while Valley View and Wynne will be hitting the road for round one of the Class 5A state playoffs.

Nettleton (9-1) earned the top seed from the 5A East thanks to a tiebreaker and will host the No. 4 seed from the 5A Central, Sylvan Hills (6-4).

Batesville, the East’s co-champion, as the No. 2 seed will host Little Rock McClellan, the three seed from the 5A-Central.

Valley View (6-4) is the No. 4 seed from the 5A East and has a tough first round game going on the road to face 10-0 Pulaski Academy, the No. 1 seed from the 5A Central and the top-ranked team in Class 5A.

Wynne (9-1), the No. 3 seed out of the 5A East, travels to Little Rock Christian (9-1) in one of the marquee first-round matchups.

Little Rock Christian is the No. 2 seed from the 5A Central.

Wynne was the preseason pick to win the 5A-East Conference, while Batesville was picked to finish second, Valley View fifth and Nettleton sixth.

Both finished in the top four to secure state playoff berths.

Blytheville and Forrest City, the third and fourth preseason picks in the East, failed to make the playoff cut, finishing in a tie for fifth place in the final standings.

Batesville, Wynne and Nettleton all rest in Top 10 headed into Friday’s first round games, while Valley View starts the playoffs ranked 12th in Hooten’s Arkansas Football Class 5A standings.

Of the four first round games involving teams from the 5A-East Conference, the Little Rock McClellan-Batesville match up may be the most intriguing.

The game is a rematch of the 2015 semifinals, won by McClellan 14-9 and played in a driving rain storm that featured a 45-minute power outage delay.

Batesville captured the East’s No. 2 seed by winning its final six games this season, including an 18-point victory over Wynne. Senior kicker Nelson Romero booted a 37-yard field goal with four seconds left in last week's 20-17 triumph over Valley View. Romero has made seven field goals in conference games this year. Over the past two weeks of the season, senior running back Cedric Hall has run for two touchdowns, caught a touchdown pass and returned two kickoffs for scores to lead the Pioneers.

Batesville has played its way to the state semifinals seven consecutive seasons.

McClellan snapped a two-game losing streak last week with a two-point victory over Little Rock Parkview, led by senior quarterback Bennie Kemp who ran 14 times for 63 yards against Parkview, and completed his only pass.

The Crimson Lions use a committee of running backs and this season five different players have led them in rushing this year. Senior Tyrese Lair had 11 carries for 109 yards and one touchdown last week. Senior safety Andre Campbell has four interceptions this season, while senior linebacker Lee Rudely leads McClellan in tackles.

Little Rock McClellan has won four playoff games over the past two seasons.

Little Rock Christian's only loss this season was at Pulaski Academy, while Wynne's only loss was at Batesville.

Little Rock Christian senior running back Ladarius Burnes ran 12 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 50-point win at Little Rock Fair.

Wynne has won three straight since losing at Batesville, including last week’s 27-point triumph over previously unbeaten Nettleton. Senior Ta'Von Hicks has rushed for more than 1,200 yards this season, including 196 yards against Nettleton.

The two teams met in the 2015 state playoffs with Little Rock Christian taking a 28-point victory over the Yellowjackets.

In a first-time meeting, Nettleton will host the Sylvan Hills Bears.

The home state playoff game is also a first for the Raiders since moving into Class 5A.

Nettleton missed a perfect season, losing to Wynne in the last week’s season finale, settling for a share of the 5A East title.

Wynne held Nettleton to 106 yards, including 27 in the first half. Sylvan Hills slipped into the playoffs after rallying past Beebe by 26 points a week ago after trailing by a touchdown at the half. Senior Deon Youngblood ran for 183 yards and four touchdowns, while senior Ty Compton ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Sylvan Hills has lost seven straight first-round games and hasn't won a playoff game since beating El Dorado by seven points in 2007 in the Class 6A state playoffs.

The Pulaski Academy Bruins and Valley View will meet in a first ever football game between the two schools and the outlook for the Blazers is bleak.

Three-time defending state champion Pulaski Academy is favored by almost 40 points.

The Bruins have outscored their opponents this season by an average of 58 to 25.

Senior quarterback Layne Hatcher holds the state-record with 13,904 yards in four years. Hatcher completed 22 of 25 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns in the first half of last week's 40-point win at Little Rock Mills.

Valley View senior quarterback Joseph Waleszonia has thrown for 962 yards and six touchdowns this season, and ran for 1,214 yards and 19 touchdowns.

••••

In Class 2A, the Palestine-Wheatley Patriots will host Mountain Pine for a first-round state playoff game Friday, marking the first home playoff game for the Patriots since the 2004 season.

In the Class AA rankings covering 47 teams, Mountain Pine rests at No. 16 while the Patriots are 17th.

Mountain Pine stayed close for a half in losses the past two weeks to top-ranked Mount Ida and No. 8 Foreman, the top two teams in the 7-2A.

Senior Dafavioun Haywood has run for more than 1,300 yards, while sophomore quarterback Collin Smith has accounted for more than 1,100 tandem yards.

After a loss to McCrory on Sept. 29, Palestine-Wheatley won four straight games to finish 8-2 overall, earning the No. 3 seed from the 6AA and the home playoff game before losing their season finale last week against Hazen.