Bledsoe, Central win state title

Little Rock Central's Fred Bledsoe has six tackles, a sack, causes a fumble and returns an interception for a TD to seal a 28-17 win over West Memphis in the Class AAAAA state title game.

LITTLE ROCK - At the beginning of the season, Little Rock Central defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe wasn't quite sure if his team had what it took to win it all.

But that's exactly what happen Saturday night when Bledsoe, one of the University of Arkansas' coveted recruits, led the Tigers to a 28-17 win over West Memphis in the Class AAAAA state championship game before 8,949 fans at War Memorial Stadium.

Bledsoe, who has grown into a 6-5, 295-pound prospect, had six tackles, a sack, caused a fumble and sealed the win by picking off a screen pass and racing in from 10 yards out to make it 28-11 with 1:38 left in the game.

"It was a great game, our fans were great, their fans were great and both teams really played their hearts out," Bledsoe said. "But I can't say enough about how well our team played and has all year."

Bledsoe's pick and return led to a celebration for Central (14-0) in a game where the Tigers won their first state title since 1986.

"That's the year I was born," Bledsoe said. "I knew we had it after I got my interception. I know how to play the screen a little bit, played it well and then took it the house. It was a great feeling."

Bledsoe, who played in front of former Central alums and current Arkansas coaches Houston and Danny Nutt, now will begin his official recruiting visits.

Bledsoe, who is also a tight end prospect, said Saturday night that he has moved his Tennessee visit to next weekend.

He'll then follow that with visits to Oklahoma State (Jan. 9-11), Arkansas (Jan. 16-18), Alabama (Jan. 23-25) and possibly Florida the last weekend in January.

"It is going to be a great time for me," Bledsoe said. "I really like Arkansas, but I want to check out everything."

Central also has a talented class of juniors, including championship game MVP Stewart Franks, a 6-3, 195-pound wideout.

Franks caught 4 passes for 143 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown pass on Central's first offensive play of the night.

"What a great feeling this is," said Franks, who joins Central safety Kevin Thornton and defensive end Antwain Robinson as juniors Arkansas will come hard after.

The Arkansas coaches, which also included Clifton Ealy, also got a chance to see West Memphis senior running back Kyle Payne.

Payne rushed 18 times for 89 yards and a touchdown and caught 3 passes for 22 yards.

"He's a great player for a great team," Bledsoe said. "It's a shame someone had to lose, but I'm glad it wasn't us."

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