“We’re calling this ‘Life Without Charlie Woerner’,” says Rabun County Wildcats coach Lee Shaw when asked about the 2016 season.
Shaw and the Wildcats are fresh off an historic 2015 season, which saw them advance to the 2A Quarterfinals and go 11-2 with the school’s winningest class in history (34 wins) leading the way. Rabun County, since the arrival of Shaw in 2012, has had three constants: Lee Shaw as the head coach, Charlie Woerner as a star player and has improved in each of the four seasons.
“If you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t believe in what’s coming back, you’re not going to win. These guys are hungry to write their own chapter.” -Lee Shaw
The Wildcats fell on a heartbreaking field goal at Jefferson County in the quarterfinals, thus ending Woerner’s career along with such playmakers as Alden Wright, Jack Johnson, Tristan Huggins and Rhodes Jones, to name a few. A Shaw-led team is never one to look back in the rearview mirror, so last year remains just that – last year – and the Wildcats will continue to press on in 2016.
“We don’t want to look back,” states Shaw. “We want to make sure these younger guys are emulating, as much as possible, those other guys from last year.”
There’s no doubt that the Cats lost a lot of talent from last year, but Shaw doesn’t look at it as the team having to try to replace them.
“I don’t think you can replace a Charlie Woerner,” declares Shaw. “He’s the best in Rabun County history in my opion. Everybody around has to do a little more, and hopefully he’s taught a lot of these guys how to play, how to be committed, how to be tough on a Friday night, how to be durable. You can’t replace Charlie Woerner.”
Coach Lee Shaw Era (2012-Present)
2012: 6-5 (Rnd 1)
2013: 8-3 (Rnd 1)
2014: 9-3* (Sweet 16)
2015: 11-2* (Quarterfinals)
Woerner tallied over 1,000 yards of offense and 16 TD in his senior year, also leading with 105 tackles. He had 2,358 yards rushing and 2,703 receiving in his career, totaling 66 touchdowns and 428 tackles, including 12 interceptions. The four-star recruit is now attending UGA.
Leading the charge in 2016 will be junior quarterback Bailey Fisher, who in his first year as full-time starter in 2015, proved to be a star signal-caller. Fisher, the 2015 BLITZ Player of the Year as a sophomore, earned Class 2A Preseason All-State honors as QB prior to this year.
“He earned that,” said Shaw. “He’s a great competitor. He wills wins. He can be as good as he wants to be.”
Fisher, along with returning senior RB Cal Drummond, are looking for even more in 2016 than last year’s deep run.
“I can’t be content with just being good,” says Fisher. “I strive to be better every day. This team, we’re hungry, especially the way we went out last year. How many times does a team lose on a field goal – in high school? That hurt us. We want to get to the Final Four, State Championship. That’s what we’re striving for. Every year we just want to get better and better”
Fisher knows that a key part to the success of the Wildcats football program starts at the helm.
“With Coach Shaw, we always have a chance,” declares Fisher. “He’s one of the best coaches in the state.”
Shaw echoes Fisher’s philosophy on not looking back or concentrating on what you lost last year.
“That’s the key to success – to stay hungry,” says Shaw. “If you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t believe in what’s coming back, you’re not going to win. These guys are hungry to write their own chapter.”
Shaw states that this year he might be even tougher on his guys than in years past.
“I’m still cracking the whip. I’m still as I’ve ever been on them, probably harder this year. We’ve got so many young guys that’s gotta get in the fire, and I don’t want them to melt in the fire of a Friday night.”
Rabun kicks off on August 26 at Mt. Pisgah Christian in a tough non-region opener. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the Wildcats, which proves to have one of the toughest non-region slates around.
“We’re playing Stephens County to prepare for the Elbert County game, since there’s a lot of similarities between the two teams,” says Shaw. “Our non-region schedule is as tough as any [Mt. Pisgah, Stephens, White, West Hall]. They gotta grow up in a hurry in four weeks. It’s difficult, but I’ve never wanted to play a soft cupcake schedule early. I don’t think that does anything for your program.”
11-2 may be a tough record to duplicate, but there’s no doubt Rabun County will grind out each game and put themselves in a position to be able to duplicate, or surpass, last season’s success.