Fall Sports Teams of the Year
It was yet another incredible autumn, and with its conclusion comes our 2021 Fall Sports Teams of the Year. Here we go:
RABUN COUNTY WILDCATS
Coach: Jaybo Shaw
Accomplishments: 2A Quarterfinals, Region 8-AA Champions, #1 State Ranking
It wasn’t the ending the Wildcats wanted, as the title quest ended in the 2A Quarterfinals. Rabun County was ranked #1 in the state all the way throughout, and played like it. After an opening loss to also-#1 Jefferson, the Cats rolled through the rest of the non-region schedule, beating such opponents as #1 Murphy (NC) on the road, #2 Pierce County on the road, #3 Saluda (SC) on the road, #8 Pace Academy on ESPN, and Class 6A’s Grovetown. The region schedule was Rabun on cruise control, as the program won it’s 8th straight region championship and made a 7th straight quarterfinals run after beating Pace Academy again, and then taking down Jeff Davis. The team put up 634 points on the season, averaging 48.8 per game. Gunner Stockton had his best season as a senior, becoming the state’s all-time leader in TD passes, total TDs, and total yards. He finished second in passing yards to Trevor Lawrence. Jaden Gibson had one of the best seasons in state history for a WR, gathering over 1,800 receiving yards and 19 TD. The senior class of 22 players are generational. What a run over the last four years!
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Stephens County, Jefferson, Dawson County, Commerce, White County, Union County
DAWSON COUNTY LADY TIGERS
Coach: Justin Rickett
Accomplishments: 3A Elite 8; #5 State Ranking
Let’s be real, the record does nothing to impress anyone. BUT…what truly matters is how a team does when the games are biggest. To that end, Dawson County and first-year head coach Justin Rickett got into the playoffs with a surge, grabbing the final spot out of 7-AAA. Then came the magical playoff run, which started with a rare #4-over-#1 when Dawson defeated Westminster in dramatic fashion in the opening round. An 8-2 and 6-1 win gave the Lady Tigers a quick win there. After a 3-2 loss to Tattnall County, Dawson eeked out a 7-6 win to force game 3, which they won the next day 3-0. Clinching the spot to Columbus for the Elite 8, Dawson took on Pike County in their first game. It was a 13-5 win for the girls, who then fell to Harlem and then SE Bulloch to end their Cinderella run as the 5th-place team in the state. Players like Layne Bailey, Olivia Martinez, and Anslee Kirby were key to the success of the team.
WHITE COUNTY LADY WARRIORS
Coach: Drew Owens
Accomplishments: 3A Sweet 16; #3 State Ranking; Region 7-AAA Runner-Up
The Lady Warriors knew they had something special before the season’s first pitch even came. With a loaded roster full of young and veteran players, Drew Owens’ team rushed out to a quick start. The girls were ranked as high as #3 during the season in all of Class 3A, and finished with 23 wins, a region runner-up finish, and a Sweet 16 run that ended at SE Bulloch. Prior to that, White County destroyed Sandy Creek 14-1 and 15-0 to advance to the second round. SE Bulloch earned 2-0 and 6-2 wins to finish off the Lady Warriors’ season. Katelyn Boman, Emma Hare, Liana O’Kelly, Annika Vandiver, and Gabby Whiddon were the Player of the Year talents that led the way throughout the season.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Union County, Commerce, Jefferson, Banks County, Habersham Central
UNION COUNTY LADY PANTHERS
Coach: Anna Chapman
Accomplishments: 2A Final Four; #4 State Ranking; Area 8-AA Championship
The Lady Panthers had a second consecutive Final Four run, won 18 games, and again went unbeaten in area play on the way to a region/area championship. Coach Anna Chapman had a very young group to work with (just one senior), and still made this run possible. All of the girls were key contributors, including the likes of Saylor Noe, Sofia McNabb, and Morgan Fussell.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson, Tallulah Falls, Habersham Central, Banks County, White County, Lumpkin County, Dawson County
JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
Coach: Timothy Lees
Accomplishments: 4A Runner-Up; #1 State Ranking; Region 8-AAAA Champions
The Lady Dragons ran like crazy in 2021. Katherine Law was better than ever, almost always finishing at the top. She was the individual Region Champion, and her and Kiley Powell led the group to a State Runner-Up finish. Law finished 5th in her final XC race.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce, White County, Rabun County, Lumpkin County, Union County, Towns County, Tallulah Falls
BANKS COUNTY LEOPARDS
Coach: Jeremy Steinacher
Accomplishments: 2A State 5th; #5 State Ranking; Region 8-AA Champions
The Leopards closed out the season 5th in Class 2A, and also secured a Region 8-AA title. Buck Ledford was the individual region champ, and was the state runner-up as well. He and Pepper Davis led the efforts under first-year head coach Jeremy Steinacher.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson, Commerce, Dawson County, Lumpkin County, Tallulah Falls
DAWSON COUNTY LADY TIGERS
Coach: Kim Fleming
Accomplishments: 3A State Champions; #1 State Ranking; Region 7-AAA Champions
The Lady Tigers secured a long-awaited state title after many years of coming very close. Kim Fleming’s group finished as the top team in the state, and also won the Region 7-AAA crown.
JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
Coach: Christy Potts
Accomplishments: 4A State Champions; #1 State Ranking; Region 8-AAAA Champions
The Lady Dragons under Christy Potts finished as the state champions in Class 4A, also after many years of coming so close. The team also won their region and sectionals.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce, Stephens County