It does not seem that long ago, almost sixteen years to be exact, that the Little Rock Central Tigers were at the top of class 5A, Arkansas’ largest classification at that time.
Head Coach Kent Laster is trying to return the program to that level, but also makes it a point to ensure that his current players understand the school’s history and tradition.
“When I got here, I was really surprised at how many players were not aware of the 800+ wins, 32 state titles, 44 conference titles, and 2 national titles,” Laster said. “We are constantly talking about that.”
Coach Laster is entering his third season leading the Tigers. A native of Dallas, Laster has experience in the Texas High School ranks, as well as college, with stints at Middle Tennessee State, Ouachita Baptist, Samford, Tennessee-Martin, and his alma mater Texas State.
After just one win during his first season, the Tigers won six games in 2019 making it back to the playoffs for the first time in six years narrowly losing to Springdale Har-ber 16-10 achieving the best turnaround in class 7A . According to Hooten’s Arkansas Football, they are picked fifth in the 7A-Central and sixth for class 7A overall. With eight starters returning on offense and six on defense, Laster believes they can continue to build on those accomplishments.
“I think we have a chance to play deep into November,” Laster stated. “We want to have a winning season and go as deep as we can in the playoffs. With the experienced players coming back who have bought into our core values and expectations, I feel they will lead the way along with our newcomers joining us.”
The Tigers are led by seniors Lawson Gunn, Sam Franklin, Canaan Davis, and Makilan Thomas just to name a few.
Gunn is back at quarterback passing for just shy of 2,000 yards in 2019. Sophomore Nassir Donahoo, a transfer from Mayflower, will provide depth behind Gunn. “Nassir is a really good athlete” Laster said. “He will play some quarterback and Z receiver for us.”
Franklin returns at running back after rushing for 1,200 yards in his junior campaign and scoring 21 touchdowns. Franklin was named to the Steve Landers Auto Group preseason Super Team for class 7A along with Mikilan Thomas.
Laster mentioned that Central is young at receiver but believes they have a corps who can step up. “Parker Perry played a few games last year and will be our starter at X-receiver. Sophomore Kris Sims will play outside receiver and also some corner.”
A newcomer to the program Laster said to watch is North Little Rock transfer Jonathan Benson. “He’s really, really fast. We expect to see some highlights from him and to be a major contributor.” The senior is playing receiver for the first time in his career.
On the offensive line, the Tigers welcome back previously mentioned Makilan Thomas and Canaan Davis. Thomas committed to Arkansas State in April and Davis is another college prospect who has an offer from UT-Martin. Junior center Jaydon Brooks also received praise from the coaching staff. “He is our most athletic lineman,” Laster told Hootens’ Arkansas Football magazine.
Defensively, the Tigers “are pretty new” up front on the line and at inside linebacker.
Sophomore Chris Franklin, the younger brother of Sam, is one to follow at outside linebacker. He is “super, super talented” Laster said. Senior Dylan Moore will be the starter at nickel. “He will do a great job,” said Laster.
In the secondary, the Tigers return experience with seniors Quincy Carruth, Trevon Glover, and Kaleb Brown. “He started some games last year, but he will play a significant role at the corner position,” Laster said of Brown.
Central will open their season at Quigley Stadium against the Little Rock Christian Warriors from class 5A on August 28th at 7:00 PM.
Published by Kyle Sutherland, @sutherland54WPS on Twitter