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State Championship Preview: Rabun shrugs off Benz snub, hosts title game

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Let’s try this again! We should be celebrating the state championship for Rabun County already, but as is well documented, the Cats were denied the state title game in the Benz due to heavy snowfall and a poor backup plan by GHSA. These guys have had a chance to deal with that devastation, and turn their attention to what’s more important than playing in a big stadium — winning a state championship!

Luckily for Coach Lee Shaw and the Cats, they get the chance to do that on the home field, with Shaw finally, after all these years, winning a coin flip after the initial Benz game was postponed. This marks the first time in 70 years that the GHSA had a major postponement for the state finals games, and it comes with much controversy. Perhaps what stings more than anything is that these guys lose the chance to be recruited as they would if playing in the Mercedes Benz. However, the task at hand is of more importance.

Rabun County, who at 14-0 remains the only unbeaten team in the state in Class 2A, plays in its first-ever state finals appearance in 69 years of history.

We thought Screven County was like a state title game, and Brooks County was even tougher…unfortunately, Hapeville Charter takes that up even one more notch and is the only thing standing in the way of the Rabun County Wildcats and a perfect season that could culminate with a state championship trophy. The Hornets have four division-I players, including Chris Smith (3-star, UGA), Rory Starkey (3-star, Pennsylvania) and Kingsley Enagbare (3-star, South Carolina), as well as QB Hajj-Malik Williams (multiple offers).

This pits the state’s top two defenses, and Rabun, with 661 points, has the top offense of any class in the state of Georgia. The Wildcats currently have the 14th top offense of all time in state history.

OUR PREDICTION: We haven’t picked against the Cats this season, and we’re not about to start now. Pedal to the metal, let’s go Wildcats! We’re calling Bailey Fisher and Lee Shaw hoisting that trophy at midfield!

RABUN’S PLAYOFF JOURNEY
RND 1: vs Chattooga: W 49-6
SWEET 16: vs BEST Academy: W 35-2 [HIGHLIGHTS]
QUARTERFINALS: @ Screven County: W 56-14 [HIGHLIGHTS]
SEMIFINALS
: vs Brooks County: W 23-12 [HIGHLIGHTS]


STATS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Bailey Fisher has put together his first 3,000 yard, 40 TD season of his career. He’s eclipsed 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards in his career, and has had a hand in over 160 touchdowns. Coach Lee Shaw is now one of only 31 coaches in state history to take two different schools to a state championship game (Flowery Branch, ’08). Austin Jones remains the X-Factor, as he has 1,228 all-purpose yards (600+ receiving, 50 rushing, 520+ punt return).

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHUP

#1 RABUN COUNTY (14-0) vs #1 HAPEVILLE CHARTER (13-1)

Here’s everything you need to know for our Game of the Week:

TIME: 7:30 pm kickoff
PLACE: Frank Snyder Memorial Stadium (Rabun County High School / Tiger, GA)
LAST MEETING: N/A
ALL-TIME RECORD: N/A
RECORDS: Rabun County (14-0; 6-0 Region 8-AA); Hapeville Charter (13-1; 6-0 Region 6-AA)

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING:

Obviously, this matchup has never been played, so both Rabun and Hapeville will be squaring off for their first meeting, and both schools are playing in their first state championship game. Hapeville is in its seventh season of varsity football, while Rabun is in its 69th.

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TEAM LEADERS/PLAYERS to WATCH (stats according to MaxPreps)

RABUN COUNTY:

PASSING
Bailey Fisher: 3,145 yds, 40 TD, 4 INT (72% passing)

RUSHING
Bailey Fisher: 1,175 yds, 27 TD
Brison Beck: 632 yds, 7 TD
Mason Sprinkle: 213 yds, 2 TD
AJ Wheeler: 198 yds, 2 TD

RECEIVING
Cole Keener: 1,000 yds, 13 TD
Braxton Hicks: 775 yds, 11 TD
Austin Jones: 618 yds, 6 TD
Dillyn Nichols: 297 yds, 2 TD
Chase Horton: 259 yds, 5 TD

DEFENSE
Gavyn Jones: 136 TKL, 11 TFL, 1 SACK, 2 FR
Austin Jones: 127 TKL, 8 TFL, 5 INT
Dawson Henricks: 115 TKL, 14.5 TFL, 2 SACKS
Jackson Webb: 102 TKL, 12 TFL, 9 SACKS, 2 FF, BLK
Austin Sosebee: 88 TKL, 15.5 TFL, 6 SACKS
Tanner Jarrard: 75 TKL, 13 TFL, 7 SACKS, 3 FF, FR
Cole Keener: 46 TKL, 10 INT
Justin Wilkes: 64 TKL, 10 TFL, 4 INT, FR, FF, 6 BLK

HAPEVILLE CHARTER:

PASSING
Hajj-Malik Williams: 2,331 yds, 24 TD, 6 INT (65% passing)

RUSHING
Harper Atkins: 694 yds, 7 TD
Marcus Carroll: 680 yds, 6 TD
Tyleek Collins: 320 yds, 9 TD
Hajj-Malik Williams: 250 yds, 6 TD

RECEIVING
Kivante Johnson: 817 yds, 7 TD
Andunte Devereux: 543 yds, 3 TD
Rory Starkey: 464 yds, 8 TD
Tyleek Collins: 213 yds, TD
Antawan Smith, Jr: 148 yds, TD

DEFENSE
Malik Flemming: 5 INT, FR, BLK, 2 DEF TD
Chris Smith & Kingsley Enagbare (D-I recruits)

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