Since taking the reigns of the wrestling program at Fannin County High School, head coach David Henson has been working to create a winning culture. Each year he begins the season with a team meeting, where he discusses team and individual goals and expectations. While he expects his athletes to have fun, he also pushes them to toe-the-line, hoping to see them standing on the podium at the end of the season.
This year, three of Fannin’s varsity boys have fought their way to the big finale – the GHSA Traditional State Championships. The tournament will be held in Macon later this week.
To get to the state event, wrestlers first had to place within the top four of their class at Area competition. In doing so, they then qualified to compete at the Sectional tournament this past weekend at Greater Atlanta Christian School. The Area 6-AAA meet was held last weekend (Jan 17) at Morgan County High School in Madison. 113 lbs sophomore Landon Galloway (2nd Place), 126 lbs freshman McCay Turner (4th Place) and heavyweight senior Bradley Flowers each qualified to advance to the Sectional meet. Flowers was the Area Champion, going undefeated in the event.
“It felt great to win,” Flowers told TeamFYNSports after winning the Area tournament. “Coach Henson and Coach Hutsell have been telling me to keep working hard in practice and this is something I’ve trained hard for.”
At the Sectional meet, the top eight finishers qualify to advance to the state tournament in Macon. Flowers finished 3rd, Turner finished 4th and Galloway once again came away with a 2nd place finish to advance all three teammates to state.
At the state tournament, Flowers (31-6) will face Dalton senior Walter Richards (54-5) in his first match to kick off the bracket. Turner (41-10) will face senior Blake Rice (3-0 in the 126-lb class) of Hall County; and Galloway (30-7) will lock horns with Calhoun freshman Blake Bailey (27-10). Weigh-ins are at 10am on Thursday morning and TeamFYNSports will be on location, posting updates on twitter and facebook throughout the tournament.
This past Friday at the Mountaintop Holiday Classic, the White County Warriors and the Pickens County Dragons traveled to Fannin County for their match up on day two of the tournament. Both teams were coming off of a loss from the first day of the tournament and ready to walk away with a win.
It was a high action and fast paced game from the start. The Dragons made the majority of their points from down low while the Warriors did most of their damage from driving the lane. Dragon post, Seth Bishop, led Pickens in scoring from the block with twenty-one points. Warrior guard, Austin Harris, led his team in scoring with twenty-four points due to his hustle. Warrior post, Austin Rowland, had the hustle on defense to make steals and contribute twelve points for his team. With the Warriors in the lead near the end of the third quarter, Pickens makes a buzzer beater shot to tie the game 17-17.
The hopes were high at the beginning of the second quarter. Both teams had the same chances of winning and were not giving up. The lead went from team to team and it became unpredictable on who would have it next. Warrior, Chandler Harris’s outside shooting came alive which put eleven points on the board for White County. Warriors, Reece Dockery and J. Ben Haynes, also had a good game above the key by each adding five points to White County’s score. The Warriors took a seven point lead over the Dragons at the end of the second quarter by making the score 29-22.
With Pickens down more than they had been the entire game, they were determined to make a come back. Both teams applied heavy defensive pressure on the other by putting a full court press into action. The press resulted in both teams getting steals and adding onto their score. At the end of the third quarter, White County doubled their lead over Pickens with a score of 47-33.
Pickens picked up the pace at the start of the fourth quarter. The Warriors start to put even more defensive pressure on the Dragons and draw fouls. Warrior, Jay Lepkoske, contributed one of his five points from the free throw line. The Warriors also started to have good looks inside which resulted in Kaleb Crane’s overall four points. Warriors, Daniel Rowland and Cooper Turner, followed the trend and each added four points onto White County’s score. However, the Warriors were not the only ones adding onto their score. The Dragons came back at the end of the fourth quarter with a score of 53-53, putting the game into overtime.
The intensity came alive at the beginning of the quarter. Both teams had four minutes to win the game. Pickens finally took the lead that they had been working for the whole game just to have the score tied once again at 63-63, putting the game into double overtime.
Four more minutes were put on the clock as both teams gave the game their all. The quarter was filled with hustle after loose balls, fouls from attempting to keep the other team from scoring, and heart. The back and forth of the game had everyone on their feet as they watched with anticipation. Although both teams played to the best of their ability, the White County Warriors had a 74-67 victory over the Pickens County Dragons.
The White County Warriors win puts their overall record at 9-4 while the Pickens County Dragons stand at 4-9. Catch the Warriors next game on January 2 at 5:45 as they travel to take on North Cobb Christian!
On Friday, Dec 15, The Fannin County Lady Rebels hosted the Towns County Indians and looking to bounce back after a tough loss the night prior at Dawson County. They also suffered a similar loss on the road earlier in the week at North Hall (Gainesville).
“The snow days definitely affected our girls’ conditioning and focus,” said Fannin Lady Rebels’ head coach Suzianne Pass when asked about the 53-27 North Hall loss. “We didn’t play our best and when you’re playing a team like [North Hall] you have to be at your very best.”
Just one week before falling to North Hall, the Lady Rebels opened region play against rival Union County. The Lady Panthers were able to escape Fannin County High School with a 2-point victory, giving Fannin their first loss in region play. After falling to North Hall and then Dawson County, the season that started so well has begun to take a turn in the wrong direction.
“Dawson County was probably the best team we’ve faced all year,” Suzianne Pass answered when asked about their tough schedule. “Pickens (who was undefeated at the time of our interview) was really good, too, though; and so was North Hall.”
Pickens, North Hall, Dawson County and Union have a combined record of 20-6, with two of those losses coming from favorites to win the state championship in their respective classes.
As the Lady Rebels prepared to regroup this week, coach Pass shed light on some of the positives coming out of their strength of schedule.
“Our girls have come a long way this season,” Pass shared. “They’re beginning to understand the role they each play on the court. I’ve had some heart-to-heart conversations and they know what they have to do. They want to do it.”
As far as the depth chart goes, there was optimism in that area as well.
“We just got one of our experienced players back from injury, and we’ve been waiting on one of our girls who hurt herself early in the year. She should be back soon, hopefully the first of the year.”
When Towns County came to Fannin, the Lady Rebels were motivated and hungry for a win. Towns County showed great tenacity and played hard, but the Rebels would not be denied.
The Lady Rebels led 25-12 at halftime, 44-24 at the end of the third. They would maintain the 20 point lead they held over the Lady Indians as they went on to score a huge victory 53-33.
Hope Franklin led the Lady Rebels offense with 15 points in the game, due mostly to her ability to get in the paint and pull rebounds out of the air at will. Franklin was an unstoppable force under the bucket.
If Franklin was Batman, Makenzie McClure would have to be Robin.
McClure shared Franklin’s desire for rebounds and the two worked better together than peanut butter and jelly. All jokes aside, McClure had a great game, scoring 9 points in the win and earning some big praise from the head coach.
“Makenzie is playing better and better, game after game this year,” Pass told TeamFYNSports. “Maleah Stepp played really well, too, and she hit a big 3 [point basket] in the first quarter when Towns was playing us pretty close.
Stepp finished with 9 points in the win as well.
Maddie Johnson, who could be seen streaking from one end of the floor to the other, was the key ball handler for the Lady Rebels. She took the point and set up the offense and pushed the ball up and down the floor at an urgent, but controlled pace throughout the game. She scored only 3 points offensively, but her performance outweighs the scorebook 10-to-1.
The Lady Rebels (5-4, 0-3) head to White County (7-4, 0-1) and then return to the road Friday afternoon to play Hayesville (NC) before breaking for the Christmas holiday.
“I looked at the schedule this week and thought, why did I schedule us two away games right before Christmas?” Pass said with a chuckle. She went on to explain the fear of her girls’ conditioning and the upcoming Holiday tournament.
“They’re in great shape this time of year but if they were to take this whole week off they would have a tough time playing a three day tournament next week.”
TeamFYNSports looks forward to continuing to cover the Fannin County Lady Rebels as their season progresses. Follow us on twitter @TeamFYNSports and on facebook at www.facebook.com/teamfynsports for all of your local North Georgia sports coverage.
The coaches at Fannin County High School have had the pleasure of coaching some talented individuals over the years. Some athletes shine on the field, others in the weight room, and many are just great students. That’s nothing new in a school that boasts some of the best teaching, coaching and administration the state has to offer.
What’s rare is finding an athlete that encompasses the “total package” – a great student, talented athlete, and a pristine example within the community. A coach can go his entire career hoping to mold and mentor such an athlete. Jon Ayers took over the baseball program at FCHS four years ago, and upon his arrival, he met Will Shirah; i.e. the total package. The credit not only goes to Ayers and the FCHS coaching staff for polishing Shirah’s performance on the baseball field and in the classroom; but also to his parents, Cliff and Julie Shirah, who have raised more than a great baseball player. They’ve raised a fine young man.
Academically speaking, Shirah’s awards nearly outweigh his baseball trophy case. Ranked #1 out of 204 students, the Hugh O’Brien Leadership Award Winner has already earned 25 college semester hours as a Dual Enrollment student with a perfect (4.0) grade point average. A member of the National Honor Society as a sophomore, a member of the FCHS Academic Team both his junior and senior years, and recognized with Student Athlete Community Service Network’s All Area Honors; it’s no surprise Shirah was Senior Superlative voted “Best All Around” student at Fannin County High School.
When Shirah isn’t throwing 90mph fastballs across the plate at the baseball diamond, he’s throwing mashed potatoes and dinner rolls on plates at the Feed Fannin Thanksgiving Dinner as a Charity Good Samaritan volunteer – much slower than the fastballs, thankfully.
Shirah also volunteers to help prepare bags of food, furniture and clothing for homeless and indigent families with his church group at the Copper Basin Crisis Center. He’s a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event leader and actively works with multiple Christian outreach programs such as Fields of Faith.
He is a member of the United Community Bank Junior Board, along with 11 other seniors, which gives back the community by participating in monthly events such as Relay for Life and more.
Shirah’s work as a volunteer with the Fannin County High School Baseball Camp will be missed when he leaves for college, but he will undoubtedly also be missed at First Baptist Church where he regularly helps in the nursery. His resume for community service serves as a role model and positive example for everyone around him, a trait his coaches and parents each shared with everyone in attendance at Shirah’s college commitment signing.
His grades are superior, his involvement in the community is respectable, and his attitude is humble; but his performance on the baseball field is phenomenal.
Shirah has lettered his freshman, sophomore and junior years at FCHS. He was also named All Region First team (7-AAA) all three of those years. He received the pitching award all three years, and he averaged 1.7 K’s per inning pitched with 190 K’s in 108 innings (Author’s note: In baseball scorekeeping, a swinging strikeout is recorded as a K). He received the batting award as a freshman and a junior.
Shirah was recently named to the Preseason All State Region 7-AAA team and he was selected to be on the cover of the 2018 Georgia Dugout Club Preview Magazine. He’s also been named to the Rawlings PG National Preseason Underclass All America Team for the third year in a row. In 2016 and 2017, he made the All-Tournament team in the 17u and 18u World Championships.
Shirah was named to the Top Prospect Team at PG Jr Nationals and Nationals (an invitation only event held in Ft Myers, FL for the nation’s top rising high school junior and senior baseball players).
Truth be told, there are too many accomplishments in Shirah’s high school baseball career to list them all. His ability to play the game has garnered national attention – including baseball recruitment (and/or offers) from Stanford, Notre Dame, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Harvard, Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, and last but not least: Georgia Tech.
On Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 3:45pm, Will Shirah thanked his coaches, parents, friends and teammates. He gave credit to his faith and everyone who supports him as he put pen to paper and signed his commitment to play baseball for the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets. We look forward to following his continued success in the future.
Moments of greatness: If one were to summarize the Fannin Rebels’ 2017 football season, the highlight reel would be short – but spectacular. The Rebels, who finished last in Region 7 (AAA) this season, played hard and if we could shut the lights of the scoreboard off; we would see a team of resilient young men who wore their jerseys with pride and refused to quit.
Unfortunately, the scoreboard acts as a report card, and with the exception of two blowout victories; the Rebels were unable to pull it all together and produce the dominant victories for which the program is remembered.
Friday night’s home game would be the last for the senior class of 2018 – many of whom leave some large cleats to fill for the underclassmen. Rather than give you the typical play-by-play rundown, here is a basic summary of the play of the seniors in Friday night’s matchup:
Senior Cody Jacobs carried the ball like a juggernaut, determined to get the running game going for the first time in weeks.
Senior linemen Bradley Flowers and Keenan Putnam took turns shoving Viking facemasks to the turf. When the play was over, they helped them to their feet so they could do it again.
Austin Brown hit ’em high, Cole Earls hit ’em low, and Brett Galloway just hit ’em as hard as he could… like he has throughout his entire football career. Dawson King hauled in the impossible catches, Chandler Smith threw the impossible passes, and Jonah Henry just did everything he could to get his hands on the football to help.
Ethan Smith continued to fight a nagging leg injury, while Sam Mercer and Ben Collins kept the team focused on the game and what they all came to do. Clay Holloway made sure the Vikings remembered his number.
Bailey White tried to cover his number so the offense would actually throw the ball in his direction. Luke Cowart covered his number, too, with his arms wrapped around the football. Jacob Hood showed his versatility, and the Fannin County coaches showed patience and resolve.
It takes a special athlete to take a beating and keep coming at your opponent. It also takes a special coach to take the responsibility of basically turning our boys into men, building their character from the early morning hours through the hot-humid afternoons of summer workouts, and handling criticism with the same poise and professionalism they’ve instilled in the very athletes they train.
East Hall defeated Fannin County by a final score of 47-27 Friday night, but the lesson trumps the loss. If the Rebels live their lives with the same ambition, attitude and persistence they gave on the field this season; we can expect they will be champions at life.
In the afternoon prior to Fannin County’s game against the Union County Panthers last Friday, the sun was shining if you looked to the northern end of the field you could see Old Glory gently waving behind a comfortable breeze. Fast-forward 45 minutes and winter had come, with fans bundled up so tight in their cold-weather gear it looked like a bunch of white-walkers from the tv series Game of Thrones were entering the stands.
It was cold.
You know what else was cold? Cole Wright, senior quarterback for the Union Panthers and college-commit for West Point. Ice cold.
The Fannin Rebels’ defense had no answer for Wright, as he picked the secondary apart with precision-passing and took advantage of soft coverage when it presented itself, by eating up yardage with his feet.
Friday night’s game was the first game since the opening minute-and-a-half against Greater Atlanta Christian where we actually saw him play at 100% health. A serious foot injury sidelined him for the remainder of that loss, then restricted him in losses against Dawson, East Hall and North Hall.
The Rebels found themselves down 10-0 early, as their offense struggled to run the football and by the time senior quarterback Chandler Smith was given an opportunity to pass, the Union defense was ready for it and covered up his receivers. The Fannin coaches began rotating running backs to maximize use of their depth, and senior defensive back Jonah Henry was the first Rebel to carry the ball to paydirt for Fannin. The PAT by Sarah Sosebee was good (as always), and Fannin trailed 10-7.
It took Cole Wright less than 2-minutes to march back down the field and he carried the ball across the goal line himself for the next touchdown, Union regaining their 10-point lead, 17-7.
Determined to run the football, Fannin employed a strategy we had not seen all season from the Rebels, putting two running backs in the backfield. Senior tailback Cody Jacobs took a couple of direct snaps and cut between the tackles, stunning the Panthers. Henry lined up in the tailback position and ran the ball as well. However, on a 4th-and-2 play in their own territory and only 3:44 remaining in the half, the defense keyed on the backs and tackled Jacobs behind the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs.
Another two minutes passed, and another touchdown pass by Cole Wright put the Panthers up 24-7 with 1:22 remaining in the half. Unable to get down field with such a short period of time, Fannin would take the locker room trailing by 17.
The third quarter was a defensive battle, neither team willing to give ground to their opponents. On the first play of the 4th quarter, however, Wright hit Hemphill (#4) with a 60-yard pass to put the Panthers up 31-7.
The Rebels continued to play hard, despite trailing by 24 with less than 11 minutes remaining in the game, and eventually their hard work paid off with another touchdown for Fannin.
It appeared as though the final score would be 31-14, but with 38 seconds remaining senior Cole Dockery of the Union Panthers took the ball 62-yards for the final blow, resulting in the 37-14 final.
Union County travels to take on the Lumpkin Indians this week, while Fannin County prepares for senior night as they host East Hall. East Hall suffered a shocking loss last week against North Hall, dropping them to fourth in Region 7 (AAA).
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm.
Stats were not yet available for this game.
This week’s #TeamFYNSports Sportswriter Player of the Week for Fannin County is #36 Jonah Henry. Henry recorded 6 tackles in the Rebels’ Homecoming game against Lumpkin. He assisted on 4 additional tackles, he had one tackle for a loss and he had one pass broken up. Henry has been a consistent part of the defensive secondary this season, as well as an asset on special teams and occasionally from the tailback position when the offensive personnel needed a break. The Rebels travel to Union County this week for the Panthers’ senior night, kickoff scheduled for 7:30pm.