Every class has one, that special person that lit up a room when they entered. For the Rabun County High School Class of 1982, that person was BJ Southards.

A striking beauty, with her long blonde locks, BJ could have easily been one of the mean girls, but she was anything but.

With an impish grin, BJ could melt anyone’s heart and she displayed kindness to everyone. As a cheerleader, she epitomized Wildcat Spirit, and her quirky jokes could make even the most serious situation light-hearted.

BJ was my friend, but she was also everyone’s friend. She treated us like family and her sweet spirit was always on display.

Growing up, I can honestly say I never saw BJ “have a bad day,” and most certainly can’t think of anyone who didn’t simply love her.

BJ was loved by her classmates and teachers alike, BJ was just one of those people.

I haven’t seen BJ since we were in our mid-20’s, but when I think of her, I still remember her as vividly as the last day I saw her. Beautiful, smiling and lighting up the room.

Sadly, life wasn’t kind to BJ in her later years, but today, she sings with angels and her smile and youthful spirit has been returned to her in heaven.

Every class has one and yesterday we lost ours, God bless you BJ and thank you for being a light. You will be missed and remembered as a friend to all.


CroweSometimes words flow easily for me, other times it’s hard… this is one of those times.

Coach Gail Crowe passed away yesterday.  December 24, 2019.  Coach Crowe had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for several years and while we all knew she was failing, her death came like a punch to the gut, especially on Christmas Eve.

Over the next days and weeks, many accolades will be said in honor of Coach Crowe and they will all be richly deserved.  She was a teacher, coach, and mentor for students of Rabun County for decades.

As the coach of our Ladie’s Basketball team, she turned Rabun County into a powerhouse and made legends of young women like Pat McKay, LuAnn Craft, Dawn Dixon, Kim Cody and countless others.  She coached her teams to championships, but more importantly she turned her Lady Cats into winners both on and off the court.

Over the years, she taught PE, coached Basketball, was the trainer for the football team and much more, she was a permanent fixture at all games, long after her retirement.

I was thinking today, I don’t think I ever had Coach Crowe as a teacher, the lessons I learned from Coach had nothing to do with basketball, football or any other school function, the lessons I learned from Coach Crowe were from life.

For me, Crowe signified a quiet dignity for life that I embraced.  She taught me how to live in my truth, without words or gestures, she just lived.  I learned from Coach Crowe that in being a decent person, people would accept and love you.  I learned that often times our differences were more similar than anyone could imagine.  From Crowe, I learned pride and honor in who I am.

Through all the honors and accolades Coach Crowe received over the years for her time on the basketball court and in the classroom, I am sure she realized how important she was…. I just hope that in some way, she knew how important her life was for kids like me.

Coach Crowe was tough, she was a competitor, she lived to win and she let every kid she ever encountered know they were loved.  Coach Crowe lived a life of dignified grace and for that all of us were blessed by knowing her.

I will always remember Crowe and appreciate the lady that she was.  She was one of a kind, one of the best, and a legend in Rabun County, for more reasons than she probably ever knew.

Rest peacefully Coach, you were loved and will be missed.



Our 2017 Rabun County Wildcats Made That Happen…..

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!


Christmas Playlist…. Go Tell It On The Mountain performed by Mercy Me

Tonight is the night my High School has dreamed of for the last 60 years….. playing for the State Championship in Football.

It should be an amazing night!  GO CATS!

A Night Like No Other….

Last night wasn’t a typical night, the Rabun County Wildcats played in the Final Four of the State Football Championships for a berth in the State Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Saturday in Atlanta.

It wasn’t a typical night because it had never happened before, in the over 60 years of our football program, we  had never reached this point in the play-offs.

After dominating every team through the season, the Cats entered the game ranked #1 in the State, the only undefeated team left in the play-offs.

Our opponent, a strong, fast south-Georgia powerhouse, Brooks County had traveled the length of Georgia,  to the North Carolina line from the Florida line.  Bus loads of Brooks County fans had made the trek, it was going to be a battle to the end.

All week the topic of conversation in our small little mountain town centered around the game.  We were told to arrive at the stadium early as a huge crowd was expected and parking would fill up fast.

I woke up yesterday morning with a sense of excitement, lump in my throat and stomach that wouldn’t stop turning.  It seems as though that queasy feeling was contagious as I got texts through the day from friends that usually started something like…”I feel like I am going to throw-up,”  I could relate, I guess we all had Wildcat Fever!

By 4:30 friends were posting that they were standing in line to get into the stadium, the gates opened at 5.

Once I closed the store, I rushed home, took Lita out for the quickest walk she has ever had, threw some food out for her and was out the door by 5:15.

On my way to the stadium multiple texts tinged my phone “where are you,”  “I got our seats, just one row back from where we normally sit,” “hurry up, this place is rocking.”

I found my seat next to Becky Simmons Berliner, my friend since first grade, my friend that I have sat with during every game this season.  We both expressed our stomach pains and impending heart attacks, Becky telling me if we win she would cry, she just knew she would cry.

I knew the feeling, we had been waiting for a moment like this our entire lives, a night like no other, a night when history would be made.

By 6 pm the stadium was packed, now we only had an hour and a half to wait before the actual game began.  Looking around, Wildcat heroes from decades back had gathered to witness this monumental night, their hearts were on the field and their excitement was palpable, they knew this was their night too.

Finally it was game time, everyone was in place and the roar of the crowd from both sides of the field was deafening.

Brooks County scored first, after a scoreless first quarter, they got an uncharacteristic safety as the second quarter began.  A few plays later the Cats scored and we never looked back.

When we scored a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter, as fans celebrated and cheered, I looked at my friend Becky, tears streaming down her face, a face filled with joy and excitement…. we were doing this, we were going to win!

And win we did!  The Rabun County Wildcats beat Brooks County 23 – 12 carrying an undefeated season to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Saturday for the chance at a State Championship.

As the clock made its final tick into history, students, parents and fans rushed onto the field to celebrate a feeling we have never had before, one step closer to a dream that has for many years seemed unreachable.

I celebrated in the stands for a bit and then made my way towards my car.

I saw my friend Meredith standing in the end-zone with her four-year old son, sound asleep on her shoulder.  He had no idea of the history made on that night, but one day his daddy, one of our coaches, will tell him about the year a group of boys set out on a mission to be the best.

He will tell his son about that historic night, on the field where he had played as a high school quarterback, and he will share the memories of that night when history was made.

Just before I reached my car, I ran into a group of Brooks County fans waiting to load their school bus for an overnight drive back to the other end of Georgia.  In the crowd I saw a single mom I had met at halftime.  She had ridden the bus from south-Georgia to see her son, a saxophone player, march.

The saxophone player’s mom and her friends were all disappointed, they wanted to win as badly as we did, but as we talked she reached out and gave me a hug and said “y’all win next week.”  I thanked her and we wished each other a good night and safe travels home.

By the time I got home, I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep.  I sat down and started thinking about the night… a night like no other.

When the history of last night is written, it will focus on Coach Lee Shaw, Bailey Fisher, Braxton Hicks, Cole Keener, Austin Jones, Andrew Barnes, Dawson Henricks, Gavyn Jones, Tanner Jarrard and all the others who contributed week after week to make this night become a reality.  But it will also feature the hundreds of young men who marched onto the field as part of the Wildcat Nation from decades past, men who didn’t have the same successes as the 2017 Wildcats, but men whose dream was fulfilled on December 1, 2017.

I couldn’t help but think about my mama and daddy, former coach and wife of the Wildcats.  I thought about Chris Mance, Merle and Frank Snyder, Ed Singleton, Bill Hall and my brother Tom, former Wildcats who celebrated in heaven on this magical night.

As I thought about this Wildcat team and all the others who had come before, I cried, tears of joy for a night like no other!

Next Saturday, we have an appointment…. an appointment at THE BENZ!  GO CATS!