It’s business as usual for the Wildcats at Rabun County. While the torch was passed from Lee Shaw to son Jaybo, and many of the program greats (Austin Jones, Shawn Lovell, Jackson Webb, Brison Beck, etc) moved on. However, some things never change. Rabun is still the team to beat, still has Jaybo calling the offense, and has plenty of proven and up-and-coming stars to keep the bar set high.
“I think you’re always trying to find what can help your program grow,” says coach Jaybo Shaw on putting his own stamp on the program. “We’re constantly changing. It’s hard to name one thing that we’re doing a little different. If you don’t adapt and you don’t evolve, you’re going to die out so to speak.”
Despite losing the opening game last year at the Erk Russell Classic to Bremen, the Cats weren’t messing around this year in the rematch. Gunner Stockton, Braxton Hicks, Brody Jarrard, Sam Adams, and the entire defense played extremely well on the way to a 34-13 win. That was followed by a 38-17 win in Week 3 over North Murray in the home opener.
For comparison, last year after two games, Rabun had scored 62 points and allowed 55. This year: 72-30 is the cumulative score. Getting out of the gates quickly is huge for Rabun County.
“It brings a lot of confidence, for the starters, the backups, the whole team” says senior receiver Hicks. “How we started this season with a win over Bremen, and then North Murray…that shows what kind of team this is. Going 2-0 gives everybody some confidence.”
While the wins on paper seem pretty huge, the Wildcats had to claw a little bit for the win over North Murray, even facing an early deficit.
“We always want to start fast…that’s something we hang our hat on as far as an offense and defense and even on special teams,” says Shaw. “We had to battle some adversity early on, and I was really proud of the way we handled it. Being able to handle some adversity and just settle in and continue to play, and continue to fight, continue to compete. I was really proud of the way we were able to do that.”
The expectations have always been high, and the players embrace that pressure. While many teams might keep their goals and expectations among themselves, the Wildcats do not shy away from it.
“Like coach J always says, ‘Don’t be the class that drops the torch for the senior class,'” says sophomore 5-star quarterback Stockton, who holds offers from nearly every top-tier program in the country. “First and foremost, [our goals are] win a region championship, and then make a deep run in the state playoffs.”
Shaw echoes the expectations that come with being the team that constantly has a bullseye on its back.
“That’s our goal…win the region and have a chance to play for it all in December and bring a state championship to Rabun County,” says Shaw. “Those two goals will never change.”
To accomplish those goals, Shaw will rely on the family-first culture, as evident by this year’s motto, “Hold The Rope” as well as the elite defense coached by defensive guru Rob Stockton, rock-solid coaching staff, high-powered offense led by Stockton, Hicks, Jarrard, Adams, and Will Hightower anchoring the line.
The Wildcats are seeking a sixth consecutive region championship and fifth straight quarterfinals (or deeper) run. The course appears headed for a Rabun/Union Week 12 date to determine the region title once again. Rabun County (2-0) takes on Stephens County (1-2) in Toccoa on Friday night in Week 4 action.
Digital Copy of Interview – Gunner Stockton & Braxton Hicks
Digital Copy of Interview - Gunner Stockton & Braxton Hicks
Digital Copy of Interview – Jaybo Shaw
Digital Copy of Interview - Jaybo Shaw