“We’ve got the keys to the Benz!” Coach Lee Shaw exclaimed at midfield following the incredible 23-12 win over Brooks County to give the Rabun County Wildcats a spot in the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta next week to play in the 2A State Championship game against Hapeville Charter. The game will be next Saturday, December 9 at 1 p.m.
For the Wildcats (14-0), the dream season remains intact despite a second straight game in which the offense got off to a slow start with a scoreless first quarter. The deeper you get in the state playoffs, the better the defenses get. The Trojans proved difficult even for Bailey Fisher, who met some career milestones in the victory.
After a scoreless first quarter, it was Brooks County who struck first after taking over on a Fisher fumble inside the red zone. The Rabun defense held strong, forcing a chip-shot field goal. Throughout much of the first half, the Wildcats had bad field position as the Trojans punter continually downed his kicks deep in Rabun territory. Pinned back inside their own two, Fisher was sacked for a safety, giving the Trojans a 5-0 lead late in the half.
Brooks County was driving again before the break, but the turning point came with a Justin Wilkes interception that led to a Fisher rushing touchdown with 1:14 left in the quarter, giving Rabun the 7-5 lead that held into the break. Austin Jones intercepted a pass deep in Wildcat territory to maintain the lead before halftime.
Neither team could generate much offense in the third quarter, but the Trojans’ defense did well to keep Rabun out of the end zone despite a first-and-goal setup late in the third. Andrew Barnes made good on a 26-yd field goal to push the lead to 10-5.
In a fourth quarter that seemed to last forever, Rabun County slowly put the game away, starting with another Fisher rushing touchdown, his second on the game after a huge interception by Cole Keener that set up the score with under eight minutes to go. The Wildcats were up 17-5, but Brooks County responded with 3:48 left on a Mac Perry to Khalid Humphreys 53-yd touchdown to bridge the gap to 17-12.
Rabun County needed just a couple of plays despite starting on the two yard line. A long pass from Fisher to Braxton Hicks, who juggled the ball before going out of bounds, moved the chains and gave the Wildcats some breathing room. The next play, Fisher checked to Jones, who couldn’t be wrapped up near the sidelines. He then tight-roped the sideline for a 73-yd touchdown that gave the Wildcats the 23-12 lead, which proved to be the final.
Keener recorded three interceptions in the second half, giving him 10 on the season. His third was on the game’s final play as time expired, sending Rabun to the championship game.
Big milestones were reached by Fisher and Keener, as well as coach Shaw. Fisher eclipsed 9,000 career passing yards, 3,000 career rushing yards, 12,000 career offensive yards, and surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the season and 40 TD passing. Keener topped 1,000 receiving yards on the year, and his three interceptions gave him 10 on the season. Shaw is now 2-1 in semifinals games in his illustrious career.