mostlycloudy
Saturday July 4th, 2015 4:26AM

Youth answers the bell for Wildcats, setting up for stretch run

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
TIGER -- Two months ago Hunter Sims was a third-string quarterback simply looking for a place to make an impact for Rabun County football.

Last Friday, Sims made the quite impact indeed, passing for 155 yards and a touchdown and also rushing for 135 yards and a score as helped the Wildcats to a 42-18 defeat of arch-rival Union County. The win also gave Rabun the inside track to the No. 3 seed from Region 8-AA for the upcoming state playoffs.

Not bad for a first start under center.

"He could not have performed better in those circumstances," Wildcats coach Lee Shaw said after a thumb injury to senior quarterback Wes Holcombe forced Sims into the spotlight (he had already become the top back-up after Collin Grant injured his knee early in the season). "He really is a dual-threat kid, and gives us some great options with his legs in the read-option."

It doesn't hurt when you have a Charlie Woerner to hand the ball off to either.

Also faced with injury to starting running back Dan Dailey, Rabun shifted their sophomore standout from receiver to running back. It was a position Woerner had tasted earlier in the season, but considering the circumstances surrounding last week's game -- the Wildcats (6-2, 3-2 Region 8-AA) were coming off two straight road losses and knew that a loss to the Panthers would likely mean a No. 4 seed for the state playoffs -- Shaw made the decision to get Woerner's hands on the ball early and often.

It was a decision that paid huge dividends.

Woerner exploded on Union County, rushing for 236 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries, while also catching two passes for 53 yards. For good measure he also picked off two passes from his safety position, demonstrating why the athlete was a preseason All-State selection.

"You could play Charlie anywhere and he would make plays," Shaw sad. "Charlie is a quiet kid that doesn't like to give interviews and is really humble... But when the ball is snapped he is a different kid -- it's not a cockiness, just a confidence that he can get the job done."

Woerner had shown, in flashes, that he was up to the task, averaging over 115 yards per game on just five-six touches, and -- with plenty in the balance -- Rabun's coaches wanted to make the most of that ability.

"We knew we had to get him the ball more, either as a "wildcat" quarterback or as a running back," Shaw said.

And now a Rabun County program that is still building in Shaw's second season has both a bright future behind a freshman quarterback and sophomore athlete and some quality depth.

"In (Class) AA ball, you still have to piecemeal some things, especially on the line of scrimmage," Shaw said. "But it was big that we had some quality skill guys that could step into big roles."

Those roles will be expanded the rest of the way, especially for Hunter Sims -- the younger brother of former Gainesville standout and current Alabama player Blake Sims -- who now becomes the full-time starter at quarterback. (Holcombe's season is not finished, however, as the senior has moved over to play cornerback, where he can still be effective despite his injury -- and Shaw noted that Holcombe was constantly talking with Sims on Friday, helping him excel in the situation.)

Woerner will certainly feature in Rabun's remaining contests, including Friday's home game versus Greene County, and the Wildcats still have plenty to prove -- including cementing the program's first back-to-back state playoff berths in a long time -- certainly longer than Shaw knows of.

"I'm not even sure that's happened. I'm still researching that," Shaw said. "I'm really proud of how the guys have responded to the adversity we've faced. We went toe-to-toe with Jefferson and lost in a physical game in overtime. That one hurt, but the players saw how close they were and know they can be great now."

The Wildcats are also gunning for their best regular season record in Class AA since 1989 (when Rabun finished 8-3), while another victory Friday would make Rabun undefeated at home in 2013.

"It's been a good season so far, but we feel like we're ready for more, and Region 8-AA has definitely helped prepare us for that," Shaw said.

It certainly looks to have prepped two of the youngest Wildcats for big things.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 1 year ago )
Sports
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 1 year ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 1 year ago )
High School Sports
Snelling to make curtain call at East-West Classic (Video)
Ask Walt Snelling about Gainesville football and you will be supplied with a litany of great players and games from a program with an illustrious history.
7:33PM ( 1 year ago )
High School football 2013: Superlatives abound after another special season
After letting it soak in for a few days we
7:42PM ( 1 year ago )
Friday Game Night
Uribe homer lifts Braves past Phillies
Juan Uribe hit a tie-breaking homer in the seventh inning, Julio Teheran delivered another strong home start and the Atlanta Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 on Friday night.
By The Associated Press
8:03AM ( 3 hours from now )
G-Braves split DH with Charlotte to end road trip
Behind a complete game from former Major League right-handed starter Brad Penny and a four homer attack, the Charlotte Knights whipped the Gwinnett Braves by a score of 11-2 on Friday night in the second game of the day/night doubleheader at BB&T Ballpark.
By AccessWDUN staff
11:19PM ( 5 hours ago )
Gainesville Braves best of 32; win USSSA World Series
Two come-from-behind wins, last-inning heroics and timely pitching meant one thing for the 9-and-under Gainesville Braves travel baseball team the last week of June: a USSSA World Series title.
2:50PM ( 13 hours ago )
Maybin gives Braves walk-off win over Nats
Cameron Maybin drove in the go-ahead run with a chopper against Max Scherzer that bounced over third base in the ninth inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.
By The Associated Press
9:23AM ( 19 hours ago )
Wolves' Bennett signs with Reds
Former Buford High standout pitcher Connor Bennett signed with the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday. Bennett was drafted in 34th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by Cincinnati.
By AccessWDUN staff
9:15AM ( 19 hours ago )