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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW: New era underway for Little Rock Central Tigers

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For the third time since 1975, there's a new voice at the top of the Little Rock Central Tigers football program.

Bernie Cox was in charge from 1975-2009, having led the Tigers to seven state championships. Ellis "Scooter" Register finished his final eight years of his career at Central before retiring in February.

In April, after North Little Rock offensive coordinator Blake Pizan withdrew his name for the position, Kent Laster became the Tigers' man.

Laster, 43, was an assistant coach at Frisco (Texas) Heritage in 2009-2017 and served as the school's track and field coach. He also coached at Weatherford, Texas, for two seasons (2007-2008) and had been a college assistant at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, his alma mater Texas State, Samford, Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee-Martin.

"It's been a good transition," Laster said. "I've been really pleased with how the players and coaches have come together. We've learned the system, but there are still things we're getting better at. We're getting closer. We're getting better. We're getting tighter. Guys are buying in.

"I'm happy the Central High administration has confidence in me to get this program back where it needs to be. I'm extremely pleased and happy to be here."

Another change with the Central football program involves the helmets.

The school's black helmets have featured a logo with a "C" and a "LR" inside of it, but this season, a new Tiger logo will be on the helmets.

"The tradition with the C and the LR will always be around. There's no replacing that," Laster said. "But when you see a Hog on that red helmet, you don't need to see it's Arkansas. It's Arkansas. When you see the Longhorn on the white helmet, it's Texas.

"We didn't really have anything with the Central Tigers on it, so it was something to add a logo or a visual for our kids. Our athletes lost it when they saw it. They were blown away."

The Tigers return 14 starters (7 offense, 7 defense) from a 2-8 squad last season. Their only victories were against Rogers Heritage in the season opener and Cabot in 7A-Central Conference play.

Central's top returner is senior wide receiver Demarcus Yancy, who caught 29 passes for 498 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2017.

At quarterback, sophomore Lawson Gunn and junior Nakiyah Davis are competing to replace two-year starter Jacob Howard.

Central has 11 seniors on the 2018 roster and Laster said he was proud of that group, considering the coaching change and the last two seasons in which the Tigers won a combined five games.

"They've bonded and banded together and said, 'This is our senior year. Let's do the best we can in 2018,'" Laster said.

Laster has three tiers for his Tigers, including a pyramid of success with the word pride featuring the words passion, respect, integrity, dedication and excellence, along with core values from the players and goals for the team.

It's an ongoing process for Laster and the Tigers as they seek their first winning season since 2014 under Register.

"We want to win, we want to make the playoffs and we want to play past Thanksgiving," Laster said. "But right now, we're working our way up from the bottom of the top. Everybody wants to hear the big goals at the end, but we've got the little things we need to accomplish first."

Sports on 08/01/2018

Tigers at a glance

COACH Kent Laster

CONFERENCE 7A-Central

2017 RECORD 2-8, 1-6

KEY RETURNERS WR Demarcus Yancy (Sr., 5-11, 185), OL Quintlyn Rogers (Sr., 6-4, 285), CB Jonathan Jones (Sr., 6-0, 165), CB Avont Harris (Sr., 5-9, 160), SS Keylin Holloway (Sr., 6-1, 198)

2018 schedule

DATE;OPPONENT

Aug. 21;West Memphis^

Aug. 31;at Rogers Heritage

Sept. 7;Rogers

Sept. 14;Open

Sept. 21;at North Little Rock*

Sept. 28;Fort Smith Northside*

Oct. 5;at Bryant*

Oct. 12;at Cabot*

Oct. 19;Conway*

Oct. 26;at Fort Smith Southside*

Nov. 1;Little Rock Catholic*

^At War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

*7A-Central game

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