Winter Sports Teams of the Year
It was yet another incredible winter, and with its conclusion comes our 2021-22 Winter Sports Teams of the Year. Here we go:
RABUN COUNTY WILDCATS
Coach: David Adcock
Accomplishments: 2A Sweet 16, Region 8-AA Champions, #8 State Ranking
Rabun County entered the season as the team to beat in Region 8-AA. To that end, not one team was successful in taking them down, as the Wildcats were a flawless 8-0 in region play leading up to the region tournament. They took the region title both the regular season and in the tournament championship, beating Union County. Rabun County won the first round matchup in the state playoffs before falling in the Sweet 16 in a tight game at home against Woodville-Tompkins. The roster was loaded, headlined by all-time great Connor McKay, who average well over 25 points per game and 10 rebounds as well. He and Gus Hood formed an exciting 1-2 punch, and others like Grayson Carver (who could straight up splash from outside), Cooper Welch, and Bear Old were big contributors. All of those listed except Welch will graduate, as Rabun County’s 23 wins stands as a school record. The Wildcats continued to be in the state rankings throughout the season, peaking at #8. The boys scored over 70 points per game, allowing a touch over 59 per contest.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson (Elite 8, Region Champs), Towns County (Elite 8), Tallulah Falls (Sweet 16), White County (Sweet 16), Commerce (Sweet 16), Union County (Rnd 1), Banks County (Rnd 1)
LUMPKIN COUNTY LADY INDIANS
Coach: David Dowse
Accomplishments: 3A State Champions!, Region 7-AAA Champions, #1 State Ranking
It didn’t come without drama, as we all know. Coach David Dowse suddenly resigned just days in to the season after the team was 2-0. The Lady Indians went 2 games without him, going 1-1. Then came a 27-game win streak once he returned, and the rest, as they say, is history. Lumpkin County rode the #1 state ranking from wire to wire, and rolled through the region at 14-0. Then rolled through the region tournament, taking back-to-back region championships. The playoff bracket was loaded on their side, and meant going through #10 Redan, #8 Tattnall, #2 Cross Creek, #4 Westminster, and #3 GAC in the final game. The Cross Creek game was a state title game type of setup, and Lumpkin took from Cross Creek what they took from the Lady Indians the year prior in the Final 4 (buzzer-beating layup in Dahlonega). The girls blew past all of those opponents except Cross Creek (10-point win) and GAC (51-47 final). Region Player of the Year Mary Mullinax was unbelievable, as were Lexi Pierce, Averie Jones, and Kate Jackson. All 4 were All-State players, and Jackson was the MVP of the State Championship game with 15 points and 14 rebounds, including the game-winning bucket with 36 seconds left. Overall, the team blistered opponents with 65 points per game, and gave up only 36 per contest. And there were ZERO seniors on the roster. The team’s motto was ‘Play 32’ and even though they only got 31 games in, they played all 32 minutes of each and accomplished the ultimate goal.
RABUN COUNTY LADY WILDCATS
Coach: DeeDee Dillard
Accomplishments: 2A State Runner-Up, Region 8-AA Champions, #1 State Ranking
The Lady Wildcats ran through the regular season with ease for the most part, and showed great bounce-back ability in the few games they did drop. Rabun County was either ranked #1 or only as low as #3 in the state polls throughout, and took down eventual State Champions Elbert County twice (one for the region title) before losing to them in the title game. Rabun County was 5-1 in region play, losing just once to Elbert in the regular season. The offense averaged 61 points per game, and DeeDee Dillard recorded her second-ever state championship game appearance. A talented senior class that included Gracie Deetz, Carley Haban, Sophie Woodard, Sara Kate Roberson, and others were just phenomenal. Those players who will return next season include Lucy Hood, Ellie Southards, and Mary Lovell who will all be relied heavily upon.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce (Final 4), Jefferson (Elite 8, Region Champs), Tallulah Falls (Elite 8, Region Champs), Union County (Sweet 16), Banks County (Sweet 16), Habersham Central (Rnd 1), Dawson County (Rnd 1), White County (Rnd 1), Towns County (Rnd 1)
Coach: Kyle Baird
Accomplishments: 4A State Runner-Up in Dual/Traditional; #2 State Ranking; Region 8-AAAA Champions
The legacy continues for the Jefferson Dragons wrestling program, who posted State Runner-Up finishes in Duals and Traditionals in Class 4A. That came with a #2 state ranking in both, and region championships in both as well. This is the norm for coach Doug Thurmond’s programs. In all, there were 5 individual state champions for Jefferson, including Sammy Brown, Luke Cochran, Davis Dendy, Davis Dollar, and Creed Thomas.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce (3rd in Duals, 4th in Traditional), Banks County (Prelims in Duals, 4th in Traditional), White County (Prelims in Duals, 8th in Traditional)
Coach: Rachel Nichols
Accomplishments: #8 State Ranking, 1A Private Inv Champions, Girls 8th, Boys 15th at State Championships
Tallulah Falls had its best swim season in school history. With Georgia Southern commit Montgomery Dampier shredding school records along with freshman sister Madison (pictured), the girls rolled to an 8th-place finish at state and were the top team in their area/region and even if broken down to Class 1A (at state, Class 1A-3A combine for events). Still, Montgomery was a state runner-up in the 500 Free, 4th in the 200 Free, 6th in the 400 Free Relay, and 10th in the 200 Medley Relay. Madison was 4th in the 200 IM and 4th in the 100 Fly, and also was part of the relay groups. Emre Sungur, a freshman for the boys, was 3rd in the 100 Free and 4th in the 200 IM, and also was 12th in the 400 Free Relay and 14th in the 200 Medley Relay.
Coach: Tess Nunnally
Accomplishments: #4 State Ranking, Girls 4th at State Championships
Jefferson’s girls team was phenomenal. The Lady Dragons came in 4th at the state championships, earning a #4 state-ranking. They were one of, if not, the best 4A team in the field. Leading the girls’ success were Aubrey Alewine-Flores (5th in 100 Fly, 7th in 100 Back, 5th in 200 Free Relay), Katherine Dunagan (5th in 100 Free, 6th in 50 Free, 4th in 200 Free Relay, 5th in 400 Free Relay), Katherine Law (8th in 50 Free, 12th in 100 Free, 4th in 200 Free Relay, 5th in 400 Free Relay), and Ximena Young (11th in 200 IM, 12th in 100 Fly, 4th in 200 Free Relay, 5th in 400 Free Relay). The girls team makes Jefferson a Team of the Year, and the boys, though they didn’t have the same level of success, still had standouts also. Kyle Davis (5th in 100 Fly, 11th in 50 Free) and Brandon Hailey (14th in 200 IM, 15th in 100 Breast) did very well.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce, Union County, Habersham Central