TIGER — When Adriel Clark transferred from Riverside Military Academy to Rabun County late in the summer, it was seen as perhaps a key ingredient for what was already a potent Wildcats offense.
They already had the nation’s No. 1 junior quarterback prospect in the country in Gunner Stockton (South Carolina-commit), a slew of receivers for their high-flying spread attack, and arguably their best offensive line in school history returning.
Clark was seen as a deep ball threat that could help stretch any defense.
But it’s doubtful that even Wildcats’ coach Jaybo Shaw, the architect of the state’s most potent 2020 attack (604 points, 47.0 ppg), could have foreseen what was to come.
Stockton has had his usual eye-popping numbers (3,021 yards, 44 TD, 3 INT passing; 1,474 yards rushing, 25 TD). But Clark has been better than advertised after he left the Eagles because they opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus.
Clark has career-bests in both receptions (71) and yards (1,481 yards) in a season. But the number that has grabbed the most attention statewide is his 27 touchdown grabs, which has tied him for the all-time lead in TD catches in a season in Georgia history with Demarco Robinson, who set the initial record in 2010 with ML King.
“I am very proud of the way our offense has executed all season long and how we have been able to be very explosive at times,” Shaw said. “But our team realizes that we have to be great now and that we can't dwell on what we have done in the past.”
Stockton and Clark will see if they can become the state’s most prolific passing attack in state history on Friday when Rabun County travels to Callaway in the Class 2A state semifinals.
Stockton and Clark had a chance to set the record last week, but Clark, who still snagged 8 catches for 85 yards in an overtime win over Bleckley County, was held out of the end zone for the first time this season.
While Clark’s season is one for the record books no matter Friday’s outcome, he has not been a one-year wonder. The 1,481 yards does lead the state in 2020 to this point and is the 16th-best season ever in Georgia by a receiver. But he is now 3rd all-time in Georgia in career TD receptions (42) behind only former Rabun County standout and all-time leader Braxton Hicks (46; 2016-19) and Macon County’s Trey Brown (43; 2015-2017).
“Adriel has had a very special year and I am very proud of the success that he has been able to have,” Shaw said. “He has bought into our culture and what we stand for at Rabun County.”
His numbers have been helped also by multiple threats in the passing game. Sophomore Lang Windham (39 rec., 488 yards, 5 TD), senior Sutton Jones (33 rec., 381 yards, 1 TD), junior Tate Ramey (29 rec., 352 yards, 8 TD) and junior Hogan Woodard (10 rec., 151 yards, 2 TD) all give Stockton plenty of potent weapons on any given play.
“The other receivers have been so productive in ways that may not always show up on the stat sheet. They are so selfless and I could not be more proud of that group,” Shaw said. “Lang has been so explosive in the run game as well as the passing game. It has been a lot of fun watching him get better and better every week. All of those guys are major factors that go into us having a balanced offensive attack.”
Stockton, meanwhile, continues to climb the state records chart as well. He is now 3rd all-time in Georgia with 121 TD passes. The 44 TD passes in 2020 are tied for the 10th-best season by a quarterback (Taylor Heinicke (Collins Hill) 2010; Austin Parker (East Hall) 2017).
Stockton sits 7th all-time in Georgia in passing yards (9,411 yards) vaulting over former Rabun County QB Bailey Fisher (9,383 yards; 2014-17). He is just 135 yards behind former East Hall QB Austin Parker (9,546 yards; 2015-17) for 6th all-time.
“Gunner has been special this year. He continues to show why he is the No. 1 Dual-threat QB in the entire country,” Shaw said. “He works extremely hard during the week in his game preparation. We put a lot of weight on Gunner and he has been fantastic this year. I am so proud of the year that he is having.”
(Stats provided by Rabun County High School and Georgia High School Football Historians Association.)