Class 2A Championship Preview: Hapeville Charter vs. Rabun County

Photo courtesy of Asbury Foster II

This game provides a chance for either team to win its first-ever state title, and even though both programs have very different histories, both are equally hungry. Rabun County has been playing football since 1949, while Hapeville Charter is just in its seventh season and is already a championship-caliber program. Since Lee Shaw took over in 2012, the Rabun County Wildcats have made it to the playoffs each of his six seasons. However, they have fallen in the quarterfinals in the past two years and before that had never made it past the second round. Hapeville Charter made it to the semifinals last year and lost to Fitzgerald after entering the playoffs with three losses. This year’s Hornets squad has not lost to a Georgia team as its only loss came at the hands of Thompson (Ala.) 21-20.

Rabun County

Rabun County, under head coach Lee Shaw and offensive coordinator Jaybo Shaw, features an offense that has not been stopped all season. Led by senior quarterback Bailey Fisher, the Wildcats offense has been prolific this season. Through 14 games, Fisher has 3,145 yards passing and 40 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Fisher also leads Rabun’s run game, which is also causes problems for opposing defenses. Against Brooks County, Fisher passed for 234 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 74 yards and two scores. On the season, Fisher has rushed for 1,169 yards and 27 touchdowns on 191 carries with a handful of games of 100-plus yards rushing. Cole Keener leads the Wildcats receivers with 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns on 52 receptions. Keener, who also plays defensive back, had three interceptions against Brooks County in the semifinals, including one as time expired. Rabun routed Chattooga, B.E.S.T. Academy and Screven County in the first three rounds.

Hapeville Charter

The Hornets are in just their seventh year playing football and are already playing for a state championship. A first-year coach in 2011, Winston Gordon led the Hornets through some tough times. He coached Hapeville through the 0-4 inaugural season in 2011, the 3-7 season in 2012 and the 1-8-1 season in 2013. The first winning season came just two years ago when Hapeville finished 6-4 in 2015. The balanced Hapeville Charter offense is led by quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams, who has passed for well over 2,000 yards and is a threat to run as well. The Hornets have a number of capable receivers and are led by seniors Kivante’ Johnson and Rory Starkey. On the ground, the Hornets have a strong stable of running backs. Senior Harper Atkins Jr. and sophomore Marcus Carroll lead the pack for Hapeville in the rushing game. The defense is one of the most talented groups in the playoffs and has five shutouts on the season, including a 24-0 victory over Spencer in the first round.

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