Sunday November 29th, 2015 3:43AM

Football notebook: White Co. gunning for 4-0 start; Shaw celebrates milestone

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
CLEVELAND -- White County football players and coaches knew they had a chance for a strong start to 2013.

How about historically good?

If the Warriors (3-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAA) can defeat Blessed Trinity on Friday night in Cleveland, White County will snare its best start to a campaign since 1975.

"We had a lot of guys back with a lot of game experience, and we had some high expectations," said Warriors coach Bill Ballard -- who, along with Rabun County's Lee Shaw recently joined the 100 win club (more on that later). "The kids worked so hard in the offseason and prepared for this year, and it's showing."

Indeed, White County has rolled in its first three contests, outscoring foes by an average of 38-9. Much of that is due to a defense that returned nine starters from last year's state playoff team. But the offense has also carried more than its share of the load -- like last week, when the Warriors rushed for 472 yards in a 48-13 Region 7-AAA victory over Fannin County.

Ballard says much of that success is due to the gelling of an offensive line that replaced some key players from 2012, as well as a strong transition into a starting role for quarterback A.J. Vandiver.

"I'm proud of our offensive line; coach J. Wright has them prepared and ready every game," Ballard said. "And A.J. Vandiver has done a real good job taking over from a standout last season in (graduated starter) Will Brock."

Yet White County also knows its toughest tests are to come, starting on Friday with Blessed Trinity. And while the Titans are off to a 1-2 start, both losses came against ranked foes in Class AA No. 2 Lovett (14-3) and Class AAA No. 10 Hart County (28-16).

"It's certainly a measuring stick for us," Ballard said. "They have a great program. Last year they got us twice, and we would love to have a win over a private school and against a perennial playoff team."

The Titans edged White County 21-19 in Cleveland in the fourth game of the 2012 campaign -- and left the Warriors worse for wear with a number of injuries, including to starting running back/linebacker Dalton Whitfield -- before getting the better of White County again in the playoffs, 35-14. But Ballard is hopeful that his team's health could make a difference in 2013.

"Right now we're relatively healthy; and we like how we're playing," Ballard said. "Being a mountain school we still have some depth issues, so we hope we can get out of this one healthy and see how we stack up against a playoff caliber team."

Should the Warriors find a way past Blessed Trinity, history really would be on the table, as -- according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association ( -- White County has never opened a campaign 5-0.

100 MORE THAN A MILESTONE: Lee Shaw remembers being a young varsity player at Rabun County and one day dreaming of leading the Wildcats as head coach.

Not only has that dream come true, it brought with it something pretty sweet last week when Shaw's Wildcats netted the coach his 100th career victory.

Shaw became the second area coach to reach the milestone this season -- White County's Bill Ballard also did so in his first game of 2013 -- and was thrilled to share the accomplishment with his players and assistants. More accurately, it was the Wildcat community celebrating a special occurrence.

"It really seemed special to my players and the community," Shaw said. "It's a great accomplishment, but I didn't think much about during the game (a 55-13 defeat of Towns County on Sept. 13). But after the game, they gave me a Gatorade shower and the game ball, and it was just really a sweet moment."

The occasion also signified Shaw's perseverance. For while the coach built a powerhouse at Flowery Branch -- winning all but 21 of his 100 with the Falcons -- he also started with a 13-37 record in five seasons at White County before taking over at the Branch in 2002, leading the Falcons from 6-24 in his first three years to 73-17 over the next seven -- including a state championship appearance in 2008.

"It could have been easy for me to give up on my dream after the way things started," Shaw said. "But you keep believing and keep working, and it paid off."

Indeed, and now the Wildcats (2-0) are squarely focused on moving to 3-0 -- though they know it won't come easy against a tenacious Commerce (2-1) that has bounced back from a 40-0 loss to Jefferson on opening night and defeated Rabun County 18-17 in 2012.

"Hopefully we learned some lessons from that game last year," Shaw said. "We feel like we're better now than this point last year, but you never know against a great program like Commerce. They know how to win."

By the way, Dawson County's Jeff Lee is also just two wins removed from his 100th win (according to, while Union County's Brian Allison is 13 games shy of the mark.

MILL CREEK READY FOR WAR VS. PEACHTREE RIDGE: While North Gwinnett is drawing many of the headlines amongst Region 7-AAAAAA teams, the Bulldogs will certainly have one ear open for scores from Hoschton on Friday.

That's because the No. 5 Hawks will play host No. 4 Peachtree Ridge in a game that is certain to let the Bulldogs know who their main competition will be for the 7-AAAAAA crown -- though Collins Hill will also have something to say about that, as the Eagles are also 3-0 just like Mill Creek and Peachtree Ridge.

The Hawks and Lions have played seven times, with Peachtree Ridge holding a 4-3 edge, though Mill Creek won last year's contest 20-10. The Hawks will be looking to break one streak in the rivalry -- Mill Creek has never won the contest when it has been played in Hoschton, winning all three games on the road in Suwanee.
© Copyright 2015
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 )
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
Run game, defense helps Dogs seal victory over Jackets, 9-win campaign
Mark Richt trotted over to a corner of Bobby Dodd Stadium, where the Georgia band played and the red-clad faithful had nothing but cheers for the embattled coach.
11:59PM ( 3 hours ago )
Watson puts up 4 TDs and No. 1 Clemson moves to 12-0 with 37-32 win over South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Deshaun Watson isn't giving up on Clemson's step-by-step approach, not when it's worked so well. Watson had another big day, running for three touchdowns and passing for a fourth...
11:58PM ( 3 hours ago )
Boys basketball: Vikings bounce back from loss with win over Paideia
Jacquen Hopkins led four players in double figures with 14 points as East Hall beat Paideia 68-54 Saturday in the Hoopsgiving Classic at Holy Innocents High School.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:57PM ( 3 hours ago )
Girls basketball: East Hall knocks off Alabama state champs in Hoopsgiving Classic
The East Hall girls knocked off defending Class AAAAAAA Alabama state champion Huntsville 65-37 Saturday in the Hoopsgiving Classic at Holy Innocents High School.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:50PM ( 3 hours ago )
Dogs drop tough road game at Seton Hall
The Georgia men’s basketball team (2-2) lost a hard-fought game on the road,69-62, to the Seton Hall Pirates (5-0) Saturday night at the Prudential Center. The Bulldogs were led by by forward Yante Maten, who poured in a career-high 21 points.
By AccessWDUN Staff
10:23PM ( 5 hours ago )