Fall Sports Teams of the Year
Plenty of local football, softball, volleyball, cross country, and cheerleading teams had fantastic seasons. We give you our Teams of the Year for each sport!
Rabun County Wildcats
Coach: Michael Davis
Accomplishments: 1A DI Quarterfinals, Region 8-A DI Champions, #1 State Ranking
The Wildcats penned a new chapter after a mass exodus of its coaching staff and some 20-plus seniors, including the greatest QB in state history in Gunner Stockton. However, Rabun County didn’t miss a beat. Michael Davis took over as head coach, and the team brought back several playmakers such as Jaden Gibson, Lang Windham, Cory Keller, Cesar Cruz, Nic Baloga, Willie Goodwyn, Jarret Giles, and newcomers Keegan Stover (QB) and Noah Legault (WR/DB). The result was more of what we’re all used to seeing from the Wildcats. A perfect regular season (4th time in school history) resulted in a ninth consecutive region championship. The quarterfinals run was the eighth in a row for Rabun, who held a #1 ranking early in the season and never dipped below #3. Stover actually put up single-game school records in passing yards and passing TD, and Gibson set the single-season TD receptions record of 29, passing former Rabun County WR Adriel Clark. Gibson’s historic season came with 1,950 receiving yards (2nd most in state history in a single-season), and left him as the all-time leader in state history in receiving yards and receiving TD. The offense generated 35.4 points per game and allowed just 15 per contest. The defense was anchored by a plethora of Wildcats, including Balogo, who led the state in tackles with nearly 200.
Lumpkin County Indians
Coach: Heath Webb
Accomplishments: 3A Rnd 1, Region 7-AAA Runner-Up
The Indians deserve the nod here also with the most impressive one-year turnarounds we have ever witnessed. Coach Heath Webb came in from Gainesville, and revamped the coaching staff, culture, attitude, and work ethic of Lumpkin County football. However, he used the exact same roster, headlined by senior QB Cooper Scott, WR Cal Faulkner, and RB Mason Sullens. Lumpkin County posted 8 wins for just the second time in school history, making the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The team hadn’t had a winning season since 2011, and the 5-0 start was the first since 1988 in Dahlonega. For much of the season, the offense and defense were both top-5 in the state in Class 3A. Both ended up in the top-10, and Lumpkin earned a runner-up finish in 7-AAA that came with hosting a playoff game against powerhouse Oconee County. The 386 points scored was a program record, and was an average of 35.1, and the defense’s 20.5 average was the Indians’ best since 2011. Scott proved to be the leader he’s been all along, and Sullens became a 1,000-yard back, while Faulkner was a do-it-all athlete who scored in multiple ways.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Stephens County (Region Champions, State Rnd 2, #3 State Ranking), Jefferson (Region Champions, State Rnd 1, #3 State Ranking); Dawson County (Region Champions, State Rnd 1); Union County (State Rnd 2), Commerce (State Rnd 1)
Union County Lady Panthers
Coach: Carissa Owenby
Accomplishments: 2A Elite 8, Region 8-AA Champions, #7 State Ranking
The Lady Panthers posted a 20-win season for the first time since 2015, and went a perfect 9-0 in region play (first perfect region record since 2010). Union County won the Region Championship, and hosted and won its Super Regional to advance to Columbus in the Elite 8. Union closed with a #7 state ranking, and scored 253 runs in total (9/game). Sierra Burnette had a fantastic junior year with a .473 average and 6 HR and 20 RBI, and carried a 3.11 ERA across 107.1 innings with 96 K. Fellow juniors Katie Byers (.372-3-19), Gracie Gladding (.423-6-32), and Georgia Patton (.392, 21 RBI), along with seniors Chloe Potts (.278-1-16) and Jaycee Seabolt (.407-3-31) guided the team to a historic run in Carissa Owenby’s first year over the program.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce (State, Region RU, #5 State Ranking), Banks County (State, Region RU, #8 State Ranking), White County (State), Habersham Central (State), Lumpkin County (State), Rabun County (State), Towns County (State)
Tallulah Falls Lady Indians
Coach: Matt Heyl
Accomplishments: 1A DI State Champions, Area 8-A DI Champions, #1 State Ranking
This team has been well documented in a BLITZ exclusive interview with coach Matt Heyl and stars Sarah Jennings, Addy McCoy, and Kitty Rodenas. SEE HERE. In short, the Lady Indians were playing their usual solid volleyball, boasting a nice record, a top-10 state ranking, and coming off a 6-match win streak. But the team explained that they weren’t having fun doing it. Once they decided to get back to having fun and enjoying their time together, coach Heyl told the team to go for 16 in a row. That would mean winning every game including the state championship. Well, Tallulah Falls went 15-1 (losing only to eventual 3A champs Morgan County), and shattered individual and team records along the way. TFS had never won an Area Championship or made it past the Sweet 16 hump, though getting there several times before and being Area RU a handful of years in a row. The team put up records of wins (35), win percentage (.761), sets won (84), wins over ranked opponents (8), and everything past the Sweet 16 was a new experience, including a #1 ranking to close it out. Heyl eclipsed 100 career wins early in the year, and Jennings set the all-time records in kills (1,000-plus) and digs (1,000-plus), as well as aces. She was named Area Player of the Year, and Rodenas set the single-season aces and assists records, while McCoy had a sensational season as well.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson (Region Champions, State Final 4, #2 State Ranking), White County (Region Champions, State Final 4, #3 State Ranking), Dawson County (State Rnd 1, #5 State Ranking), Union County (State Sweet 16, #9 State Ranking), Lumpkin County (State Rnd 1), Rabun County (State Rnd 1)
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Dawson County Lady Tigers
Coach: Jonathan Tinsley
Accomplishments: 3A State 5th Place, Region 7-AAA Runner-Up, #5 State Ranking
Jonathan Tinsley’s Lady Tigers came up with a Region Runner-Up finish and carried it over to a top-5 finish at the GHSA State Championship meet. That marked the first Region RU finish since 2018 for the girls, and the top-5 was their best finish since 2016. What’s more impressive is that Dawson’s girls were only represented last season at state by a single individual and placed 5th in the region. It marks a huge turnaround for the girls team in just one year. Junior Anna LeCave was the leading runner at region (6th), while freshman Hayden Hand (8th) and junior Jules Phillips (9th) provided a very good top-3. Hand was 9th at the state meet, while LeCave was 15th and Phillips 19th to put the trio in the top-20. The great news is next year potentially could be even better, with all 3 coming back along with several others.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson (Region Champions, State 14th), Union County (State 5th), White County (State 7th), Rabun County (State 9th), Tallulah Falls (State 17th)
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Lumpkin County Indians
Coach: Logan Turner
Accomplishments: 3A State 5th Place, #5 State Ranking
Lumpkin County saved its best for last on the boys side. The dynamic duo of junior Ben Sherrill and sophomore Wyatt Windham guided the team to a 4th-place finish at the Region Championship meet, just earning the final team qualifying spot for state. Once at Carrollton, the Indians ran to a 5th-place finish for the first time in at least 15 years. At the State Championships, Windham came in 4th overall at 17:13, and Sherrill was right on his heels at 6th with a 17:14 time. Sherrill’s 16:44 at the region meet earned him Runner-Up honors, while Windham (17:11) was 4th there.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson (Region Runner-Up, State 7th), Dawson County (State 6th), Towns County (State 10th), Union County (State 12th), Rabun County (State 16th), Habersham Central (State 17th), Stephens County (State 17th), Tallulah Falls (State 17th)
Jefferson Lady Dragons
Coach: Christy Potts
Accomplishments: Area Champions, 5A State 5th Place, #5 State Ranking
The reigning Class 4A State Champions jumped up to Class 5A this season. That didn’t slow down the Lady Dragons’ cheer squad. The result was an Area Championship and top-5 finish at the State Championships. That’s 5 years in a row for Jefferson coming in the top-5 and winning the area/region.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Dawson County (Area Champions, State 6th), Stephens County (Area Champions, State 7th), Commerce (Area Runner-Up, State 3rd)