Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:48am
Football 2012: Shaw hopes to lead rebirth in Rabun
By Morgan Lee Editor
TIGER -- Things are looking very different these days in Rabun County.
The Wildcats have a new head coach, new offense and defense and a new set of facilities that will be the envy of north Georgia.
That new head coach is plenty familiar with Rabun, however, and former Wildcats quarterback and assistant Lee Shaw hopes he can make his program’s performance on the field buck its recent trends.
“We’re rebuilding this program,” said Shaw, who brought with him the cache of having built Flowery Branch football from scratch, making the Falcons a perennial playoff program -- including a Class AAA championship appearance in 2008. “We know Rabun County has a great past, but we’re talking about the future right now. We’re telling the kids that they have an opportunity to flip things and leave a legacy for years to come.”
The Wildcats have not posted a winning record since 2000 and have not reached the state playoffs since 1998, but Shaw’s return has helped create a buzz around Rabun football. To that end, the Wildcats boast an 18-member senior class and the largest roster it’s had in some time at 62 players.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had 18 seniors here,” Shaw said. “And they’ve got a real hunger, a desire for success.”
Indeed, Shaw says that the Wildcats’ upperclassmen have bought wholeheartedly into the myriad changes to the program.
“We’ve got a great crop of freshmen and sophomore coming in, and that’s how you build a program in the long run -- but you have to start building with your seniors,” Shaw said. “Your seniors have control of your team, and if they’re with you, you’ll have a great chance.”
Rabun’s offensive chances will rest with the spread attack that Shaw employed to devastating effect in Flowery Branch.
“Nothing’s changed on offense from Flowery Branch,” Shaw said. “We’re going to continue to stretch the defense and go with the no-huddle.”
Junior Wes Holcombe will lead the Wildcats’ attack. The 6-foot signal caller brings athleticism and speed to the position and has grown through a packed summer of 7-on-7 passing camps.
“He’s got a little wiggle; he kind of reminds me of (Shaw’s oldest son) Jaybo (who played quarterback at Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern),” Shaw said.
Holcombe will have a capable back-up in sophomore Collin Grant, who will also play at wide receiver and feature on special teams. The duo will target a rangy and athletic receiving corps that includes Jeb Gipson, Clint Scott, Bailey O’Shields and 6-4, 190-pound freshman Charlie Woerner. Dan Dailey and Kendall Woodard will feature at running back.
“I feel good about those guys making plays,” Shaw said. “The offensive line also has plenty of people we’re confident in putting out there.”
The line features center Tommy Chevalier as its anchor, while Charles Gordon, Logan Welborn, Trey Matheson, Robert Dills and Cody Woods will all see playing time.
Rabun County’s defense will base out of a 4-2-5 and will show plenty of looks pre-snap -- “We’ll be pretty multiple,” Shaw said.
Senior Hunter O’Shields will lead the defense both verbally and physically at inside linebacker and will be joined by Cain Tomlin.
The secondary features multiple players battling for minutes, including Jeremiah Brown at nickel back, cornerbacks Jesse Cannon, Tevan Bleckley and Tyler Harris and safeties Woodard, Woerner, Andrew Hopper and Alden Wright.
Meanwhile, Shaw believes he has also unearthed a gem in placekicker Carlos Diaz, who has wowed at practice -- though he must perform in a game. Grant should punt.
“I’ve enjoyed putting the pieces together,” Shaw said. “That’s what I love, and that’s been the challenge since day one.”
One of those pieces is a strong coaching staff that includes several ex-Rabun quarterbacks and Shaw’s eldest son Jaybo, who turned down professional options overseas and college coaching offers.
“He could have been a graduate assistant somewhere or gone overseas, so I’m honored that he chose to come up here and help me,” Shaw said.
The Wildcats also stayed in Region 8-AA, which won’t be easy and features some long road trips -- such as Greene County. But Shaw believes his team has an opportunity.
“I feel like we can come in and compete,” Shaw said. “We’re excited, and we just want to get started and see what we can do.”
RABUN COUNTY: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Red and White
CURRENT REGION: 8-AA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Lee Shaw, first season
2011 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 3-7
KEY LOSSES: RB Dyllon Crabtree, C/NG Dellon James, WR/CB Jimmy Stamey, WR/CB Will Lamberti, OL/LB Stephan Morgan, TE/DL Dillon Bleckley,
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.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Jr. QB Wes Holcombe, So. QB/WR Collin Grant, Sr. WR Clint Scott, Sr. WR Jeb Gipson, Fr. WR Charlie Woerner, Jr. OL Cody Woods, Jr. RB Dan Dailey, Sr. RB Kendall Woodard
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-2-5 -- Rabun will look to be multiple on defense, putting its secondary in multiple looks and attacking opposing offenses.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Jr. DE Ed Olvera, Sr. LB Hunter O’Shields, Jr. DL Austin Cunningham, Jr. Nickel-back Jeremiah Brown, Sr. CB Jesse Cannon
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK Carlos Diaz, So. P Collin Grant
STRENGTH: Desire -- The combination of Shaw’s arrival, a large senior class and a talented group of underclassmen should help rejuvenate the Wildcats, and it is Rabun’s upperclassmen -- keen to net their first winning mark -- that could make the difference for the program.
QUESTION: Depth and consistency -- Rabun knows it wants to win, badly. And the Wildcats now have plenty of help to get them there, but getting over the hump toward their first winning record since 2000 won’t be easy.
KEY GAMES: The opener at Hayesville (Sept. 7) will be huge for a program looking to rebuild. Commerce (Sept. 21, away) will also offer a stiff non-region test early in the season. Rabun will get three straight home games (Oct. 12, 19 and 26), but that span features back-to-back contests against state playoff teams from a year ago in Washington-Wilkes (Oct. 12) and Jefferson (Oct. 19).
TRENDING: The Wildcats put together their best record in five seasons in 2011, breaking out of four straight one-win campaigns. Yet the program did graduate several key seniors. Certainly Rabun will be invigorated emotionally by the return of standout alumni Shaw, who showed he could build a program at Flowery Branch. Rabun has undergone some eye-popping renewal to its athletic facilities, now the Wildcats want to make the results on the field match.
Sept. 7 at Hayesville, N.C.
Sept. 14 vs. Towns County
Sept. 21 at Commerce
Sept. 28 at Social Circle
Oct. 5 at Riverside Military
Oct. 12 vs. Jefferson
Oct. 19 vs. Washington-Wilkes
Oct. 26 vs. Union County
Nov. 2 at Greene County
Nov. 9 vs. Oglethorpe County
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