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Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:48am

Football 2013: Rabun County ready to continue ascent

By Morgan Lee Editor


MASCOT: Wildcats

TEAM COLORS: Red and White


HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Lee Shaw, second season, 6-5

2012 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-5, first round Class AA playoffs

KEY LOSSES: WR Clint Scott, WR Jeb Gipson, RB Kendall Woodard, LB Hunter O’Shields, CB Jesse Cannon, PK Carlos Diaz, 3 offensive linemen

OFFENSIVE STYLE: Spread option -- Shaw has brought Flowery Branch’s wide-open attack north. The Wildcats will look to spread out defenses and take advantage of the resulting space via the run and pass. Rabun also has four starting receivers standing 6-foot-3 or taller.

KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. QB Wes Holcombe (2,300 yards passing in 2012), Jr. H-back Collin Grant, So. WR Charlie Woerner, Sr. RB Dan Dailey, So. RB Eli Gipson, So. RB Ashton Hopper, So. WR Alden Wright, Sr. WR Jordan Oliver

DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-2-5 -- The Wildcats will look to be multiple on defense, putting its secondary in multiple looks and attacking opposing offenses.

KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: So. Saf Charlie Woerner, Jr. DE Tyler Gibson, Jr. LB Tucker Williams, Sr. DL Daniel Fonclara, Jr. DE Jeremy Cannon, So. CB Tyler Harris

SPECIAL TEAMS: Jr. P Collin Grant, Jr. PK Froy Hernandez/Sr. PK Huriel Elorza (the two are competing for the job)

STRENGTH: Skill positions/desire -- With players like the rising star Woerner at receiver and Holcombe at quarterback, the Wildcats should be even harder to stop on offense this season. Holcombe may run the ball more after learning the offense last season.

QUESTION: Offensive line -- The Wildcats graduated three starters and have moved the other two in their positions.

KEY GAMES: The Sept. 20 game against Commerce at home could be big, as the Wildcats look to bounce back from a defeat to the Tigers last season. Starting on Oct. 11, the Wildcats face a brutal stretch run, opening with a road trip to Jefferson and then at Washington-Wilkes -- who are amongst the Region 8-AA preseason favorites. Rival Union County (Oct. 25, away) wraps a three-game road trip before a home game against Greene County (Nov. 1) -- who knocked off the Wildcats last season.

TRENDING: Lee Shaw led the Wildcats to a magical start to his reign in 2012, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1998. But just making state is not Shaw's goal, and Rabun is hungry for more. With the facilities and coaching staff on hand -- combined with some standout players -- things are certainly looking up for the Wildcats.

Sept. 6 vs. Hayesville, N.C.
Sept. 13 at Towns County
Sept. 20 vs. Commerce
Sept. 27 vs. Social Circle
Oct. 4 vs. Riverside Military
Oct. 11 at Jefferson
Oct. 18 at Washington-Wilkes
Oct. 25 at Union County
Nov. 1 vs. Greene County
Nov. 8 at Oglethorpe County
TIGER -- In the matter of just a few months, hope has been replaced by expectation in Rabun County.

The Wildcats called Lee Shaw home in 2012 so that the former Rabun County standout could rebuild a football program that had gone without a winning season since 2000 or a state playoff berth since 1998.

Shaw accomplished all of that in just one season in charge.

In 2013, the Wildcats will look to take things a step further -- and Shaw is only too glad to have those goals.

“Expectations don’t scare me, complacency does,” Shaw said. “The community is excited here. And we’ve got 14 seniors on the team that are really excited about growing this program.”

Included in that group is starting quarterback Wes Holcombe, who put together an admirable junior season in Shaw’s spread option attack, passing for 2,300 yards. Yet 2013 could see Holcombe add another dimension to his arsenal.

“He’s got great speed, and I’m excited to see him open up the offense and start running the ball a little more,” Shaw said. “Last year we were just trying to get him comfortable, and he was focusing on passing the ball. This year he may be able to get out and run it more, and that makes this offense that much harder to stop.”

A talented and sizable receiving corps will also make the Wildcats -- who averaged just under 30 points per game in 2012 -- harder to contain.

Leading the way is 6-foot-4, 210-pound sophomore Charlie Woerner, who dominated at times on offense and defense last season, is a preseason All-State selection and is already starting to draw interest from FBS programs.

“He’s a special kid; he doesn’t know how good he is, and he’s very humble,” Shaw said. “He’s from a great family, and he’s just got that mindset. I really think he has SEC level talent.”

Woerner is joined by Alden Wright (6-3, 200) and basketball standout Jordan Oliver (6-4, 205). H-backs Collin Grant and Hunter Sims (a freshman) will also feature, along with a solid running back corps that includes Dan Dailey, Eli Gipson and Ashton Hopper.

The biggest question comes at offensive line, where the Wildcats graduated three seniors and have moved the two remaining starters, but Shaw is optimistic about his team’s chances to move the ball.

Defensively, Rabun returns six starters, including several sophomore standouts -- including Woerner at safety.

Junior defensive end Tyler Gibson is returning from a torn ACL and should be a big addition, along with junior linebacker Tucker Williams. Jeremy Cannon will also feature at defensive end, while Cain Tomlin will feature as a linebacker/defensive back hybrid in the Wildcats’ 4-2-5 base.

“We should be better on defense this season,” said Shaw, who saw his team yield just 26 points per game in 2012.

Rabun must also replace standout kicker Carloz Diaz and are looking at both Froy Hernandez and Huriel Elorza to fill the role.

The Wildcats will be tested by a strong schedule that includes a Region 8-AA slate that features defending state champ Jefferson, as well as extremely athletic and talented teams from Washington-Wilkes and Greene County.

“Last year was definitely a sling shot for this program, but we felt like we still left some games out there,” Shaw said. “The big thing is that this group is just as hungry as last year. It’s going to be another challenging year, but we’re excited and ready for it.”
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