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Bryant quarterback Austin Ledbetter wins 2020 Landers Award

2020 Landers Award winner Austin Ledbetter and Bryant Head Coach Buck James (Photo: KATV)
2020 Landers Award winner Austin Ledbetter and Bryant Head Coach Buck James (Photo: KATV)
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Austin Ledbetter, the even-keeled quarterback for the most dominant program in the state's largest classification, won the 2020 Landers Award on Thursday night. The senior signal caller led Bryant to its third straight 7A championship, finishing 26-0 in two full seasons as the Hornets' starter.

Ledbetter, committed to play baseball for the University of Arkansas, passed for 3,086 yards and 41 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He added 181 yards and two scores on the ground, while often sitting out the second half of blowout wins. Bryant became the first program to win three straight 7A championships since the AAA expanded to six classifications in 2006.

Watch - Beyond the Game: Friendship binds star quarterback Austin Ledbetter, boy with autism

"It feels really good," Ledbetter said. "I'm blessed to have all my family and friends here, all my coaches. It feels really good to win this prestigious award."

"I think he's a very unselfish player, as you can see, and he's a guy that has all the ingredients of what it takes to be a great high school quarterback," Bryant Head Coach Buck James said. "It's an opportunity for all of our young kids to understand what it takes to get to this level and what it takes to sustain at this level. To be able to win this great award, it's really the ultimate prize in high school football in Arkansas."

The Landers Award, celebrating 21 years of honoring the top high school football player in the state, has often been referred to as the "Heisman of Arkansas High School Football." The winner receives a trophy, signature Jostens ring, and a $5,000 scholarship towards their school. The other nine finalists were presented with plaques during a live special on KATV.

The Channel 7 sports staff chose 10 Landers Award nominees during the season. 21 statewide newspaper reporters and TV and radio broadcasters were given the opportunity to cast a vote.

Past winners of the Landers Award include De'Arrius Howard (West Memphis, 2000), Reed McKinney (Warren, 2001), Landon Leach (Russellville, 2002), Peyton Hillis (Conway, 2003), Darren McFadden (Oak Grove, 2004), Damien Williams (Springdale, 2005), A.J. Whitmore (Nashville, 2006), Tyler Wilson (Greenwood, 2007), Spencer Keith (Pulaski Academy, 2008), Michael Dyer (Little Rock Christian, 2009), Brandon Allen (Fayetteville, 2010), Fredi Knighten (Pulaski Academy, 2011), Drew Morgan (Greenwood, 2012), Zach Launius (Cabot, 2013), Ty Storey (Greenwood, 2014), LaDarius Skelton (Pine Bluff, 2015), Taylor Powell (Fayetteville, 2016), Connor Noland (Greenwood, 2017), Justice Hill (Little Rock Christian, 2018), and Jacolby Criswell (Morrilton, 2019).

Fayetteville quarterback Bladen Fike was presented with the Paul Eells Award for showing some of the same traits the legendary sportscaster exhibited in his Hall of Fame career. After kneeling with time remaining in a playoff game against Little Rock Central, allowing the Tigers to kick the game-winning field goal, Fike displayed an exceptionally strong backbone in dealing with criticism from an ESPN analyst.

Pulaski Academy linebacker Futa Shinkawa was presented with the inaugural Scott Landers memorial scholarship for his tenacity and grit on the field despite a small stature. The $5,000 scholarship is presented in memory of Scott Landers, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 35 in January, 2020. Like Shinkawa, Scott was a fierce linebacker at Pulaski Academy, earning all-State honors. He received a scholarship to play football at Arkansas Tech. Scott then followed his father into the car business and successfully grew the Landers group to include dealerships across Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

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The 30 minute show aired live from Channel 7's downtown Little Rock studios. Players appeared virtually this year due to the pandemic. 2007 Landers Award winner Tyler Wilson took part in the ceremony.

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