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Wednesday September 28th, 2022 10:56AM

Football: Are Rabun Co., Whitefield Academy looking to make early statements in Class A D1?

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

TIGER, Ga. — It’s expected to be your classic matchup.

High-powered and high-flying offense vs. a quick, athletic opportunistic defense. The question is which offense and which defense are we talking about?

When Whitefield Academy arrives in Rabun County on Friday, fans will get a double-dose as all four units of the Class A, Division 1-ranked teams are among the classification’s best.

The Wolfpack (4-0) are ranked seventh and already have wins over a ranked Macon County team, 35-30, on the road and Class 3A Wesleyan two weeks ago. The Wildcats are ranked third and have wins over Class 3A teams Stephens County and Adairsville.

But neither team has faced the kind of offensive firepower and defensive stalwarts they will face this week. Except perhaps in practice.

Rabun County leads Class A D1 in scoring, averaging (44.25 points/game) behind senior quarterback Keegan Stover (63-100, 1,249 yards, 17 TD, 0 INT) and senior wide receiver Jaden Gibson (33 rec., 661 yards, 10 TD). Gibson’s 661 yards leads the state, all-classifications, and the 10 TDs are tied for the state lead.

The Wolfpack are 5th in scoring, averaging 36.75 ppg behind dynamic East Carolina-commit Ayden Duncanson at quarterback. Duncanson is averaging 256 yards and 4 TDs per game and leads the Wolfpack in rushing (439 yards, 7 TDs).

If there is a slight edge on paper it may be on the defensive side where Whitefield is 4th in Class A D1 yielding just 11.0 ppg while the Wildcats are 10th giving up 14.75 ppg.

“This is going to be a great matchup no matter who has the ball,” Rabun County coach Michael Davis said. “Both offenses are explosive and the defenses are very tough. I really have no idea what kind of game to expect. It should be a fun one to come and watch.”

The last time the Wildcats ran into a stonewall defense was against Stephens County, where the game was decided by a Gibson pick-6 in a 14-7 win in a defensive slugfest. Rabun County was held to under 200 yards in that game.

Whitefield Academy, however, may offer an even tougher challenge. Senior defensive tackle Ian Geffrard, an Arkansas-commit, checks in at 6-foot-6, 375 pounds and senior linebacker Caleb Lavallee, a North Carolina-commit, already has a whopping 73 tackles (18.3/game) and 9 tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. The next highest player has 23 tackles for the Wolfpack.

Whitefield also has 11 sacks and 10 QB hurries and is +10 on turnover ratio in just four games.

“They have a lot of seniors with experience and they’ve been building to this year,” Davis said of the Wolfpack. “They’re very athletic, especially on defense, and are well-coached. Their defense may be the best we’ll see all year. The secondary is certainly the best we’ve seen.

“Geffrard is almost unblockable and Lavallee is all over the field. If we can’t contain those two it could be a long night.”

But Davis said he’s not too worried if his vaunted offense gets bogged down like it did against Stephens County.

“People may be sleeping on our defense,” Davis said. “That’s a tough scrappy bunch that is more athletic than I think people realize.”

Seniors Nic Baloga (64 tackles, 3 TFL), Ethan Owens (52 tackles), and Corey Keller (48 tackles) all are averaging double-digit tackles per game. Overall, the Wildcats have 21 TFL, 7 sacks by six different players, and are a +5 on turnover ratio.

“We’re really playing well on defense. We’ve seen some great offenses like Adairsville and Stephens County and Heard County,” Davis said. “We have a lot of faith in them that they can stop anyone.”

But the matchup of the night will be the Wildcats receiving core, led by Gibson and Noah Legault (12-250 yards, 3 TD), Willie Goodwin (5-120 yards, 3 TD), Keller (6-70 yards), and Jarrett Giles (2-71 yards), against the Wolfpack secondary of Duncanson, Jonathan Cassady, Wyman Shaheen, and Mac Wotton, who all have 2 INTs on the season. As always, however, senior running back Lang Windham (51-308 yards, 3 TD rushing; 6 rec., 53 yards receiving) figures to take on a prominent role.

“We have a lot of weapons we feel,” Davis said. “Because we like to throw the ball most people forget just how good, versatile, and important Lang is in this offense. He could be the difference for us in being able to open things up.”

Davis said there is also a difference between now and when they played Stephens County nearly a month ago.

“That was just our second game. Keegan was still integrating into the offense and I was still learning on the job as a head coach. I made some poor (offensive) calls in that game I thought,” he said. “We’re much more in-sync now as a group, especially on offense. And I feel like we can still get a lot better.”

With still more than half of the season to go, measuring-stick games in September are rare. But with Rabun County’s 42-13 whipping of another Class A D1 team Heard County last week, a win over the intra-classification Wolfpack could have the rest of the classification taking notice, if they haven’t already.

“I guess you could say this is somewhat of a measuring stick game for both teams,” Davis said. “But I’m sure Whitefield will look at this like we will afterwards: it’s just just another game on the schedule, the next one in this case.”


WEEK 6 SCHEDULE
(Gainesville, Towns County, Union County, and White County are all off.)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 22
Flowery Branch at Eastside (SH)*

FRIDAY, SEPT. 23

Commerce at Banks County
Buford at Marietta
Cherokee Bluff at North Hall*
North Oconee at Chestatee*
West Hall at Dawson County* 
Walnut Grove at East Forsyth*
East Hall at Cedar Shoals*
Johnson at East Jackson
Lanier at Habersham Central*
Jackson County at Apalachee*
Jefferson at Clarke Central*
Strong Rock Christian at Lakeview Academy
Pinecrest Academy at Lanier Christian*
Pickens at Lumpkin County*
Shiloh at North Forsyth*
Whitefield Academy at Rabun County
Oglethorpe County at Riverside Military

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Rabun County football
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