Inseparable. When you play with the same teammate and friend since age seven, a strong bond develops that goes beyond the gridiron. The word “brotherhood” resonates throughout the Rabun County Wildcats football program, something that every player and coach has embraced. That pays dividends in the way of four straight region titles, three straight Quarterfinals runs and a 2017 State Championship game appearance.
The brotherhood is strong, and it’s guys like Shawn Lovell and Jackson Webb, both three-year lettermen entering their senior year, that might just be the heart and soul of the team.
“These boys are like my family,” says Lovell of the brotherhood. “We have bonded so much over the years and you can tell that by the way we play.”
It’s not just the fact that the duo has played together since age seven – as well as teammates Austin Jones and Brison Beck. It’s the durability, the toughness and the winning. That group since 2007 lost only two games through middle school. Yes, you read that correctly. From age seven until thirteen/fourteen, just two losses.
“The reason we have lost so few games is because growing up our coaches in rec ball were always hard on us since day one, and it carried over into our middle and high school years,” says Lovell. “Then as we began to get playing time in high school the coaches have pushed us to do our very best and that’s what has led us to so many victories.”
Winning isn’t just something the Wildcats believe they can do, they expect to do it.
“This group has been together since we were seven, and we’ve always expected to win and this year is no different,” says Webb. “The goal is to go undefeated and bring a state championship back to Rabun, and knowing these guys so well, I know that we’ll do everything in our ability to make it happen.”
This senior class won three North Georgia Youth Football Association (NGYFA) championships and two Mountain League Middle School championships. It’s been more of the same in high school. Lovell and Webb have been key components to a rising senior class that has gone 36-4 overall, including a flawless 18-0 in region contests. Three of the four losses were in the quarterfinals or deeper.
“Lovell and Webb are nothing but hard-nosed Rabun County football players,” says head coach Lee Shaw. “They both play with passion and intensity. Their body styles are totally different, but the tenacity is the same. I’d take both these young men over anybody else If I knew it was going to be a very physical game.”
Lovell, a North-South All-Star Game selection, recorded 39 pancake blocks as a 2017 junior under center, leading the way for Bailey Fisher’s historic senior season that allowed Fisher and guys like Jones, Cole Keener (c/o 2018) and Braxton Hicks (rising junior) to score at will. Lovell has around 100 pancake blocks as an anchor on the offensive line. He also showed out as a defensive lineman deep in the playoffs last season.
“I was very excited to get to play on defense as we went into the playoffs,” says Lovell. “I was happy with how I played because I made a few tackles and one big hit at Screven. During this upcoming year I would like to play some defense, but it will be limited I think. Maybe once we move into the playoffs I’ll get to see some more time on defense.”
Every play last year began with Lovell’s snap to Fisher, and his ability to keep his head on a swivel was second to none. Lovell is as quick as we’ve seen at picking up a loose defender who’s been left unaccounted for on a blitz or stunt. Even in the running game, he’s been able to physically overpower larger defensive tackles, and has shown the quickness to also scoop a gap defender.
“I think my toughness and the toughness of the other seniors come from the beating we give each other every day,” adds Lovell. “Coach Shaw always tells us iron sharpens iron, and that’s how we go into practice each and every day.”
During this past offseason, Lovell says he’s focused more on his foot speed and strength.
Webb played both sides of the ball, and rarely took a snap off in his junior 2017 campaign. He tallied 112 total tackles (12 for loss) and led the Cats with nine sacks, forced two fumbles and recorded a blocked punt.
“In a game I don’t have time to think about being tired,” says Webb on having an endless motor. “I know my teammates and coaches have my back, and 100% is the least I can give for what they’ve done for me.”
His 2018 campaign will see nothing less.
“I’m starting on both sides of the ball, and should be seeing most snaps on both sides as well,” confirms Webb. “This offseason I’ve worked a lot on offensive line and worked on getting my body durable for a long season.”
Webb’s reputation as a 6’3″ and 200 lbs, ferocious hitter is well intact, and will proceed itself in 2018. Opposing offenses will do well to avoid pound-for-pound one of the hardest hitters in the state. On the flip side, Webb also notched 26 pancake blocks as a first-time O-lineman in 2017. To date, Webb’s career includes 167 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles, a blocked punt and a pass deflection, as well as a safety. All that in really one season as a true every-down player.
“I definitely take that as a compliment,” says Webb on being known as a tough and mean player. “I like to be known as the toughest dude around, and I try to hold myself to that standard and mindset everyday at practice and in every game.”
As well-documented, Rabun County’s dominance led to its starters not seeing much action past the second series in the third quarter often times. That didn’t stop the duo from putting up ridiculous numbers. They’re primed for even more success in 2018. If the core of Lovell, Webb, Beck, Austin Sosebee, Jones, Hicks and incoming freshman quarterback Gunner Stockton can remain healthy, we could be looking at zero dropoff from last year’s elite senior class and their success in getting to the title game.
Both Webb and Lovell are generating some interest among some good college programs, but continue to fly under the radar. Lovell hasn’t had serious talks yet with coaches, but enjoyed camps at Berry College and North Greenville University this summer. For Webb, he’s had a couple schools contact him about playing defensive end, and went to a camp at Lenior-Rhyne, but is focused right now on having a great senior year.
“I believe both have the ability to play at the next level,” adds Shaw. “Some school would be lucky to coach what I’ve had the pleasure of coaching these last four years when it comes to Shawn and Jackson…..true winners.”