Most teams win a single region title and that represents the pinnacle of their season. Most teams put up school records, accomplish some great feats and then look back on that success. Rabun County is not most teams. The Wildcats are not satisfied with making history with a fifth straight region championship. This team is hungry for another trip to the Benz.
“A region championship is not the pinnacle of our success,” says head coach Lee Shaw. “It’s certainly a goal of ours, but that’s not the end game for us. We want to be in the Benz. We want to play for a state championship. Some teams buy into [winning a region title], then they just kind of lose it after that. Our guys are not satisfied with that. They want a ring…they want to be in the Benz.”
Shaw’s pedigree is well-documented, but it’s worth repeating. 6 Region Titles, 2 State Title Games, 161 wins (and counting), 42 all-state players, and the list goes on. Oh, and his never-ending list of QB prodigies. The five straight region titles has only been accomplished 41 times previously in state history.
“Coming into this season, my mindset is we’re going to go to the state championship, and we’re going to win,” says junior wide receiver Braxton Hicks, who has been one of the most highly-recruited receivers in North Georgia this season.
Players like Hicks, Austin Jones, Shawn Lovell, Jackson Webb, Brison Beck, Austin Sosebee, Gunner Stockton and many others are continuously penning a new chapter in Rabun County history.
“We do have a catalyst on our team…kind of how he goes we go,” says Shaw. “And that’s Austin Jones. Four-year letterman, going to be playing on Saturdays, but he’s all Rabun County who believes in winning that state championship. If one guy pops out, it’s gotta be him.”
While a team like Rabun County, who holds a 54-8 overall record in the five-year region title run dating back to 2014, could easily get caught looking ahead, the players make sure to keep the “one game at a time” mentality.
“It is tough because we love to look forward and think postseason because that’s our expectation at this point,” says Jones, a Furman University commit. “But coaching staff, senior class, both of us just love to hit on ‘treat every team the same, prepare the same for every team…never overlook an opponent,’ that’s how you come out successful every week.”
The offense, which ranks first in all of Class 2A at 48 points per contest, is often talked about. Because who doesn’t love touchdowns? But the defense is equally impressive.
“We love each other, we play hard for each other every snap,” says senior Jackson Webb on the defense, who rarely steps off the field except for special teams and points to the intense workouts, conditioning, and training as the key to his success. “There’s no doubt if someone misses a tackle, somebody else is going to be there, and usually four or five. That’s what we mean by ‘We Swarm.'”
Webb plays both sides of the ball, so he represents a large part of the success on offense and defense. But as an offensive lineman as well, he and center Shawn Lovell take great pride in what they do in the trenches.
“It’s like our family,” says Lovell on protecting his QB Gunner Stockton or RB Brison Beck and others. Lovell is one of the state’s top centers. “We wouldn’t let anyone through our front door that wants to harm our family. We take a lot of pride in protecting [them] at all times, and try to give Bruno [Beck] as many yards as we can and Gunner all the time he needs.”
That mentality exemplifies the cohesion between the coaches and players at Rabun County and the true Brotherhood that has been the key factor to the Wildcats’ success over the past five seasons.
Rabun County (9-1), ranked number two in the state, begins its latest journey to the Mercedes Benz Stadium tonight against Spencer in the opening round of the 2A State Playoffs.