History was made in Fall of 2019, and a handful of our local teams made serious runs for state championships. While we can only pick one team per sport, that doesn’t diminish what other programs accomplished.
Here are the Fall 2019 Teams of the Year.
RABUN COUNTY WILDCATS
HEAD COACH: Jaybo Shaw
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Region Champions, Perfect Regular Season, State Quarterfinals, #1 State Ranking
This may have been the most dominant Rabun County team ever, and that’s saying a lot. These Wildcats under first year head coach Jaybo Shaw earned a #1-state ranking for much of the season, were unbeaten in the regular season for the 3rd time in school history (and second 10-0 regular season ever), won a 6TH straight region championship, and made another deep playoff run.
Records fell in the process, both team and individual. Of those included a third all-time state playoff shutout (38-0 win over BEST), moving the 50-pt game tally up to 35 all-time, and a 6th 10-win season, etc. Individuals like Gunner Stockton and Braxton Hicks set many milestones. Hicks finished his career as the #5 receiver all-time in Georgia with 3,490 yards, and his 46 TDs are the most ever in state history. He had 3 straight 12+ TD seasons. Stockton had 43 TD passes and north of 3,400 passing yards, both single-season marks that are personal bests and among the best seasons in state history. After finishing his sophomore year, he already is up to 6,390 passing yards (77 TD), 1,835 rushing yards (36), and 113 TD overall.
The unselfishness of this team and “brotherhood” atmosphere produced a quarterfinals appearance for a 5th straight season. The offense put up the 3rd-best mark in program history in 44.5 points per game, while the defense allowed just 12.8 per contest.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson, Union County, Dawson County, Commerce
BANKS COUNTY LADY LEOPARDS
HEAD COACH: Kelby Cronic
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 3A State Champions, Region Champions, #1 State Ranking, Top-10 National Ranking
Unbelievable! This season and team was incredible wire to wire. Aside from 3 losses, all of which were close and in non-region play, were the only hiccups in Kelby Cronic’s first year over the program. The lineup did damage with Tybee Denton (.423 AVG, 12 HR, 41 RBI; 29-3 W-L, 1 Save, 0.47 ERA, 412 K), Jill Martinet (.480 AVG, 9 HR, 46 RBI), and Madi Cronic (.460 AVG, 2 HR, 14 RBI) leading the way. A talented senior group, aided by up-and-comers like Jacy Ayers, Jewels Ayers, etc, made this team impossible to stop.
After finishing 3rd at state in 2017, and Runner-Up in 2018, this time the girls were determined to win the final game. The playoff run was unlike any that’s ever been seen in state history. Complete domination to the tune of 97-1 as a score differential against competition. To cap it off, the Lady Leopards were forced to play the final 3 innings of the final game at home, when in Columbus rain halted their championship game with just a few frames to go. The agonizing wait was well worth it to do something no other team gets to do…win a state title in front of the home crowd.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce, Jefferson, Lumpkin County, Union County, Rabun County, Habersham Central, Stephens County
HABERSHAM CENTRAL LADY RAIDERS
HEAD COACH: Lindsay Herrin
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: State Playoffs, #1 State Ranking
This was a tough choice, but for almost the entire season, Habersham Central was without equal. Unfortunately for the girls, they weren’t peaking at the right time (in area playoffs and state playoffs). That shouldn’t take away from a season that saw the Lady Raiders win 30 games for the first time ever, make state for the 3rd time in 4 years, and earn a #1 state ranking after a 20-0 start to the season. An incredible senior class of 7 special girls led the Habersham volleyball program to, despite the first round loss, arguably the best team in school history. Habersham also head-to-head beat Dawson, Lumpkin, and Tallulah Falls twice each, and also beat White County among our local programs.
Among the team leaders for the season included seniors Alexandra Shalikashvili, Ansley Hendrix, Sydney Brookshire, Haley Rice, Rachel Smith, and freshman phenom Madeline Koshuta.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Rabun County, Dawson County, White County, Union County, Jefferson, Lumpkin County, Tallulah Falls
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
HEAD COACH: Brady Sigler
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: State 4th Place, #4 State Ranking, Region Champions
Jefferson has long been stacked in cross country. This year proved it, though the Lady Dragons would be the first to admit they wanted more than 4th place this year at state. However, the girls absolutely DOMINATED Region 8-AAA with a point total of 20. Second place Jackson County carded a 72. That’s a HUGE gap. Katherine Law led the way as the individual region champion, and was followed across the line by Caitlin Schroeder and Olivia Kulniszewski, as Jefferson placed the top 3 in that order. Law finished 11th at state, with Schroeder 15th.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce, White County, Banks County, Rabun County, Towns County, Dawson County, Union County, Tallulah Falls, Lumpkin County
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
UNION COUNTY PANTHERS
HEAD COACH: Paige Dyer
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: State Runner-Up, Region 3rd Place, #1 State Ranking
The Panthers didn’t have the conventional path to earning this honor. Union had a rough showing at the Region 8-AA meet, placing 3rd behind both Banks County (1st) and Oglethorpe. However, Union, who held the #1 state ranking for quite awhile, turned it on at state, beating out Banks County when it mattered most, and finishing just 4 points shy of Oglethorpe. Union nearly repeated as state champions after winning it all last year (2018). The Panthers were led by Luke Gambrell (Region Runner-Up, State 4th Place) and Hunter Hartzog.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce, Banks County, Towns County, Dawson County, Jefferson, Tallulah Falls, Habersham Central
JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
HEAD COACH: Christy Potts
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: State Runner-Up, Region Champions, #2 State Ranking
The Jefferson competition cheer team placed second at state in the 3A classification, and earned a region championship and #2 state ranking in the process. Head coach Christy Potts guided the girls to back-to-back region titles, and took the program to a new level with this year’s state runner-up finish, which bested 2018’s version, which finished 4th.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Dawson County, Commerce, Habersham Central, White County, Stephens County, Lumpkin County