Wildcats Built for State Title Run [Video]
Sometimes the stars line up, and everything seems to be in place for something special to happen. That could very well be the case for the 2020 Rabun County Wildcats. There’s no shying away from it – these guys want more than a region title or playoff run.
“As good as we have been, we haven’t won game fifteen yet,” states Shaw. “That’s still the goal, and we have to be better. I expect no different if we continue to raise the bar…We’ve got to play right at the right moment. That’s our goal, we go in the locker room every day and there’s a goal board in there and the first thing is a state championship.”
The bar has to be higher than ever for this program, which has posted 10 or more wins each season since 2015, including making a 2017 State Championship appearance. That string of success really dips back to 2012, where the program has won 82 games, six straight region titles (’14-’19), five straight quarterfinals (’15-’19), etc.
“We just have to come to work every day,” adds star quarterback Gunner Stockton. “We’ve been putting in the work…we have the best coaches in the state, they’ve put in the work. Just come in, play hard, and the main this…just be accountable.”
Stockton, the consensus 5-star recruit who just Thursday committed to South Carolina, is a large reason for the expectation being so high.
“His whole control over what we’re doing offensively – he’s pretty much an offensive coordinator on the field,” says Shaw on his quarterback’s progression from last season. “He helps me script practice, coming up with a game plan. He works his tail off; he’s got a ton of God-given ability. He works extremely hard to improve his game.”
The offense, which racked up 44.5 points per game in 2019, 46.0 in 2018, and 45.6 in 2017 with Shaw calling the offense. While the team moves on from four-year starter and current UGA player Braxton Hicks, the Cats reload and bring in a newcomer at receiver, All-State honoree Adriel Clark.
“That position has a chance to really have a special year,” says Shaw, who saw guys like Sutton Jones, Tate Ramey, Hogan Woodard, and others emerge as viable playmakers at receiver. “We’re excited about that position, and you add a guy like Adriel who just continues to help that position grow. We’re excited about the production that hopefully they’ll have.”
The defense, which has one of the most brilliant minds in the game in Rob Stockton, allowed only 12.8 points per game last season. This year’s unit has the ability to be even more stingy.
“That’s the goal,” says Shaw. “We’re always going to try to take [our defense] to another level.”
The team has endured elements out of their control, like interruptions in practice, cancellations of games and scrimmages, and the like. But one thing that sets Rabun apart from other programs is their work ethic, conditioning, and weight lifting.
“Coach [Tim] Bragg came up with a great plan like he always does for our guys, and we tried to stay on schedule the best we could and stay in touch with our players,” says Shaw. “We tried not to skip a beat…we have just such a veteran football team with great leadership, it’s something we can continue to hang our hat on.”
Stockton is one of those prime examples of players putting in the work when no one is looking. While Stockton’s athletic abilities are second to none, he’s also upped his game as far as intellect goes.
“I’ve gotten bigger, faster, and stronger just because of growing up,” says Stockton on his improvement. “But I want to get to where I know everything where I can basically just call the whole game.”
Stockton, who passed for for 3,473 yards and 43 TD last year and rushed for 1,126 yards and 19 scores, is thrilled to make his commitment to South Carolina.
“To me it was a big deal to just kind of [get it done]…whenever I knew where I was going to go…I wasn’t going to drag it out,” says Stockton, who admits it was a bit of a load off his shoulders. “I was in Columbia, and just feeling like, ‘hey I could live here.’ I just felt at home. I like the people, and the fan base is crazy. It was awesome.”
The Wildcats open their slate on September 4 at Ridgeland, and open the home schedule against Prince Avenue Christian on September 11. Among the powerhouse programs on the schedule in 2020 is Jefferson, Prince Avenue Christian, Oconee County, and Bremen among others. Rabun is almost a shoe-in to be ranked inside the top five to open the season.
Digital Copy of Interview – Jaybo Shaw
Digital Copy of Interview - Jaybo Shaw
Digital Copy of Interview – Gunner Stockton
Digital Copy of Interview - Gunner Stockton