Since the final horn blew on Friday night, ending a High School Football season unlike any other, I have been trying to find words that would honor the year that has just passed.
While I am sad that the score didn’t end with Rabun County on top, those feelings of heartbreak are far outweighed by pride, appreciation and respect.
When the history of Rabun County athletics is written, a final defeat will show as the outcome of our first-ever State Championship game. But more than that defeat, the history will be punctuated with brotherhood, historic, unity, spirit and more.
I’m sad we lost the game, but my biggest concern is for these young men who went into battle and came up a bit short. I hope that they understand what they did for an entire community, a small town in north-Georgia’s Appalachia, in their fight for history, they brought us all together, they gave us pride and their efforts made us walk a bit taller.
When businesses line the sidewalks with balloons and signs and close early for a football game that is more about pride than any game played on the field. Our 2017 Rabun County Wildcats made that happen.
When people start standing in line, in 30 degree weather, wrapped in layer upon layer of warm clothing, blankets and sleeping bags, that is more about history than any game played on the field. Our 2017 Rabun County Wildcats made that happen.
When people arrive at the stadium 3 hours ahead of game time just to get a seat, that’s about unity. Our 2017 Rabun County Wildcats made that happen.
On a night when the temperature never rose above freezing, thousands of Rabunites came together, we came together to support our team, we came together to remember a historic run, but we also came together to relive moments of our youth and to feel those feelings we hadn’t felt since we walked the hallways of Rabun County High School. Our 2017 Rabun County Wildcats made that happen!
The pain of defeat is obvious, yes it hurts to come up a bit short, but more than that pain, the feeling of pride made us pull out our Wildcat gear on Saturday morning and wash our town in red as we strolled Main Street searching for last-minute Christmas gifts.
And while the outcome of the game was obvious with minutes to go, our team never gave up, they never stopped chasing their dream, they kept fighting for their fans, the history of the moment and their brotherhood. They fought to the last second, teaching many of us who may have forgotten that there is honor in the battle and by just being on the field at Frank Snyder Memorial Stadium they had secured a place in history that will live long after the pain of defeat subsides.
I hope that one day, the 2017 Rabun County Wildcats will look back with bursting pride on what they did over the weeks and months that led up to that final touchdown. The lessons we learn in defeat are sometimes more important than those of victory.
What I learned on Friday night is that a group of young men can bring us all together, they can teach us about teamwork and working towards a goal and those are lessons that these young men will carry deep into their lives, lives that have been shaped by hard-work, dedication and unity.
Over the next weeks and months we will comfort these players. We will tell them about what they have done for us and hopefully they will one day understand.
Our entire community owes a debt of gratitude to these young men, the coaches, the cheerleaders, the band. We owe a debt of gratitude to them for what they did on and off the field, they showed us what we can do as a community when we come together. They showed us what pride looks like.
It’s been a great season, both on and off the field, I hope we won’t forget the feelings and lessons these 2017 Rabun County Wildcats taught us!
No doubt, our coaches and the 2018 Wildcats will begin working soon for next year, they have quite a legacy to stand on and a community that stands behind them with PRIDE, RESPECT and UNITY!
Thank you Wildcats, you have done us all proud!