'Scooter' Register Has One More Rebuilding Project at Little Rock Central

by Jim Harris  on Monday, Jul. 12, 2010 12:00 am  

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Ellis “Scooter” Register was on hand the night Little Rock Central last won a football game. He was on the opposite sideline, coaching Little Rock Catholic. He saw his Rockets roar out to a 27-7 lead, only to see the Tigers muster up one of their biggest comebacks in decades and pull out a 28-27 win.

Nobody thought much about Central’s win that night being significant. It was the Tigers sixth of the year, on the second-to-last playing date of the 2007 season, and while a six -win season was below expectations for a Bernie Cox-coached program, which was a year removed from a 10-1 year and not far away from back-to-back state championships, it didn’t make any observers of Arkansas high school football take pause. Prognosticators thought the Tigers would finish no lower than No. 2 in their conference the next season.

It marked Bernie Cox’s 271st win in a state sports Hall of Fame coaching career. But it would be his and Central’s last win. Two seasons went by without the state’s most tradition-rich football program sniffing a victory.

Then Cox retired, though most around the Tigers’ program say he was told by school administrators before it was over that the season would be his last. His retirement from coaching didn’t last long, as he signed on as defensive coordinator at Arkansas Baptist.

Meanwhile, the Central and the Little Rock School District looked for the right coach to restore the Tigers’ glory.

They didn’t have to look far. Ellis “Scooter” Register has been in this role before.

Register, leaning in his disciplinarian ways, built Little Rock McClellan into a state finalist in 1994. He left the Crimson Lion program in good shape to bring life to an El Dorado program that hadn’t won a championship since 1959. Though he left the Wildcats for Little Rock Catholic in 2003 after reaching the 2001 state title game, he again had the table set at El Dorado, which has been winning regularly ever since and finally broke through with a state championship under Scott Reed last fall.

Catholic, a two-time state champion in the 1980s under Roy Davis when Pulaski County didn’t have the large number of private schools it has now, wasn’t seeing the same numbers coming out for senior high football and in general needed recharging. Register did just that with motivation, hard-nosed play and an innovative offense. His 2005 team reached the state semifinals, was 11-2 overall, and the Rockets again became regular contenders in what is now the 7A-Central conference. His teams were 42-36 in seven years.

The Tigers, meanwhile, were the dominant team in 7A-Central and atop the state’s polls in 2003-2004 and No. 1 going into the state playoffs in 2006, before the bottom fell out for Cox and his staff.

Central seldom lacked for defense even during the 21-game losing streak, but Cox’s penchant for conservative offense seemed to become no offensive plan, and the kicking game became abysmal. Roster numbers fell dramatically in recent seasons, and players quit by the handful during the season. Many around the program felt that after 35 seasons at the helm, Cox as well has his longtime assistant Norman Callaway became burned out and their “old school” ways didn’t work with today’s high school athletes.

In his only interview about giving up the job, Cox said he realized “it was time” to step down.

Time to call in “Scooter.”



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