Monthly Archives: February 2017

1986 Fannin County High School Baseball Team

With the possible exception of athletes who play football for the University of Alabama or women’s basketball at the University of Connecticut, being a part of an undefeated team at any level of competition is something very special. Few teams in the history of Fannin County have managed to run the gauntlet of an entire season of competition unscathed. The 1986 (1985-86 school year) Fannin County High School baseball team, however, managed to do just that. The lusty 18-0 regular season record posted by the 1986 has earned them a place in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

The athletic program at Fannin High was in a period of transition during the 1985-86 school term. The average daily attendance at Fannin High was smack on the border between an AAA and an AA classification. The level of competition faced in the two classes is quite significant. Athletic teams at the school competed in the Class AAA division beginning with the 1978-79 year and remained at that level through the 1984-85 school term. It was an uphill struggle for the athletic teams at Fannin to be competitive at the AAA level. The football teams, for example, posted an overall record of 10-58-2 over the seven year period.

Sometime during the 1984-85 school term, the decision was made to drop from the AAA to the AA level. The powers that be decided that the 1985-86 teams, including the 1986 baseball team would not be eligible for any region crowns nor would they be allowed to participate in region tournaments during that year. The 1986 Fannin baseball team did not let that bother them, however, as they ran roughshod over every team on a schedule that included Copper Basin, Gilmer County, Pickens County, Fairmount, Rabun County, Towns County, Redbud, Lumpkin County and Union County. Most of those opponents were the same schools that had appeared on Fannin County schedules in the past.

The 1986 baseball team was characterized by sound fundamental baseball play, outstanding pitching and defense, timely hitting and a sizeable helping of good team chemistry. Brad Mitchell, the starting catcher, describes the team as “very businesslike — everyone knew their job and everyone did their job”. He continues recall that the team had a good understanding of the game and that demonstrative celebrations during competition were kept to a minimum. There was much cause for celebration during the season but Brad relates that the celebrations at away games were postponed until each player had taken their seats on the bus and after the bus had cleared the immediate area of competition. Then shortstop Kurt Warren, a slick fielder who also hit .367, would crank up his cassette player to maximum volume and play ‘Bad to the Bone’ by George Thorogood and the Destroyers. In homage to ZZ Top, another pop group of the era, the team began to refer to the 1986 season as their own version of the ‘Eliminator Tour’.

Yogi Berra is credited with saying that baseball is 50% hitting and 50% pitching — and the other half is defense. The 1986 Fannin pitching staff was led by starters righty Jeff Gray, who posted 10 victories, Chris Chastain with 5 wins and lefty Jimmy Nichols who was the winning pitcher in the remaining 3 games. Bullpen duty was primarily the responsibility of Rex Mashburn.

Defensively, the Rebels generally lined up with Howie Bruce at first base, Tim Lents at second, music aficionado Kurt Warren at short with Dennis McClure holding down the hot corner when Jeff Gray was pitching. Jeff moved over to third when he was not on the mound. Starting flycatchers were Shan Culpepper in left, Jeff Warrenfells in center and Sonny Mashburn in right. As previously reported, Brad Mitchell, who also quarterbacked the Rebel football team, was the starting catcher. Valuable backups were Joey Breeden at first, Dewayne Thomas at second, Richie Walker who saw a lot of action in the outfield, along with freshmen Cole Staton and Bryan Davis.     

Offensively the Rebels were a very balanced club boasting a team batting average of .311. Individual stats showed Sonny McFarland leading the team in hitting with a .407 average, followed closely by Jeff Gray at .382, Kurt Warren at .367, Tim Lents at .339, Jeff Warrenfells at .333 and Howie Bruce with an average of .328. The team also recorded an on base percentage of .519. Other notable offensive numbers that were school records at the time were runs scored in one season at 177, most hits at 173 and most runs scored in one inning at 11 in two different games. Jeff Gray led the team in RBIs with 25, home runs with 4, hits at 26 and 17 stolen bases. Kurt Warren led the team in runs scored with 21, Howie Bruce in doubles with 7 and Shan Culpepper and Kurt Warren led in sacrifices with 5 each.

On the defensive side, the team had 7 double plays. On the mound Jeff Gray posted an ERA of 1.29 with 72 strikeouts, Chris Chastain had an ERA of 1.58 and 62 strikeouts and Jimmy Nichols had 45 strikeouts and an unbelievable ERA of .80. Reliever Rex Mashburn struck out 7 enemy batters and had an ERA of 3.36.

The most common adjective that the players use to describe their group is ‘close-knit’. ‘Camaraderie’ is another word heard when the 1986 baseball Rebels look back on their great season.

In case you have been wondering, the Coach of the 1986 Fannin County Rebel Baseball team was David Lunsford.  Coach Lunsford gets good marks from contemporaries for his baseball knowledge and coaching methods.

The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is proud to tell anyone within hearing distance about the outstanding achievements of the 1986 Fannin County High Boys of Summer who did so much to make everyone in the County very proud of them and their record.

Chris Williams

Mineral Bluff native Chris Williams donned a football uniform for the first time as a member the East Fannin Junior High School Wildcats in the fall of 1983. It was the first step in a 19-year journey during which the game of football would be an important part of his life, first as a player and then as a coach. His resume of outstanding gridiron accomplishments has earned him a place in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame, class of 2017.

Chris describes his early days of football competition thusly: “Coaches Jack McHan, Robert Craig and Jeff Quinton took a big overweight kid with some skill and helped him develop and learn to love the game of football. This kid even became team captain his ninth grade year”. He also credits his Uncle Aldon Farmer, a charter member of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame, for encouraging him to continue to participate in athletics and try to make it to the next level.

The next level for Chris Williams came when he entered Fannin County High School. There, he played football and participated in track and field from 1985 through 1988. He was awarded three varsity letters in football and two in track and field. In track and field, he competed in both the shot put and discus events. He was a two time Region 8AA runner-up in the shot put competition and finished second in the Region in the discus throw at the 1988 Region track meet.

In football at Fannin County High, Chris played both offense and defense. He was named as the Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Union County in 1987 earning a grade of 91% for his blocking success in that game. He was singled out as the ‘Lineman of the Week’ on several occasions. Coach Marty Jackson said that Chris was “the best lineman yet to come out of Fannin County. He is a great athlete, a team leader who also leads by example. He came on real strong last season”.

At Fannin High, Chris played for teams that improved from an 0-10 record in 1985 to a mark of 7-3 in 1987. The latter was the best record that the Fannin Rebels had ever achieved.

After his high school senior season, Chris was awarded a football scholarship to attend the University of North Alabama, a perennial powerhouse in Division II college football. Teammate Brian Satterfield also received a scholarship from the Lions, and the two became the first athletes in Fannin County High School history to earn college grants for athletics.

Chris played four seasons at North Alabama, earning three varsity letters in the process. He played in the offensive line in 1989 and competed as a defensive lineman in 1990 and 1991. He was selected as game captain on several occasions as a junior and senior.

He stayed at North Alabama as a graduate assistant coach for two seasons after completing his playing eligibility. During those two years, Chris earned his Masters Degree and was a member of the coaching staff of the 1993 North Alabama team that won the Division II National Championship with an overall record of 14 wins and no losses.

Chris returned to Fannin County in August, 1994, where he began his high school coaching career. He was on the staff at Fannin for three seasons. The 1995 Rebels posted a school-best record of 12-1 and a final ranking of 7th in Class AA competition in the state of Georgia.

Chris went on to coach for four more seasons, at Forsyth Central High in 1997 and 1998 and then at Pickens County High in 1999 and 2000. During the summer of 1998, he was honored by being selected as assistant coach of the North team in the annual North vs South Georgia All-Star game played in Athens. He served as the offensive line coach and player liaison director. In addition to his football coaching duties, Chris was also the Head Wrestling Coach at Forsyth and Pickens County.

Chris describes his biggest thrill in athletics as just being one of the ‘Boys of Fall’. He says that he “enjoyed the competition and tough lessons that sports can teach you. I learned more from losing than I did winning but I enjoyed winning much better”.

Chris Williams currently resides in Blue Ridge with his wife Kristen. He is employed by the Gilmer County Education Department. He enjoys coaching his 10-year old son, Isaiah, in wrestling and watching 3-year old daughter Kensington dance. Isaiah is an up and coming young wrestler and has already won two state titles in his weight division.

He credits his parents, Rev. Larry and Beulah Williams, with being the biggest influences in his life. He also mentions the many coaches with whom he has played or worked, including North Alabama Head Coach Bobby Wallace, as being positive influences in his life and career. Finally, he credits his “second mom and dad, Dr. Ron and Kay Jabaley” and Dr. Tim Jabaley for their support and love “along the journey”.


Blanche Smith Ganues

Blanche Smith Ganues has been selected as a member of the 2017 class of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame. She becomes the fourth member of the Fannin County High School girls basketball teams of the mid to late 1940s to be so elected. When one considers that Clyde Henry, the coach of the Fannin County girls from 1945 through 1948 is also a member of the FCSHOF, one gets an idea of just how powerful those teams were.

Blanche grew up in the Loving community in the eastern part of Fannin County. Her parents were Reverend Walter and Sadie Smith. Walter was a Baptist minister who was quite well known throughout the area for many years. At various times during his ministry he served as pastor of several country churches in Fannin County including Salem Number One, Hemptown, Friendship, Pleasant Hill, Hot House, Maple Grove and Mineral Bluff and he was in great demand to preach revivals at other churches in North Georgia and Western North Carolina.

There were seven children in the Smith family, Blanche coming along as number six. They were an active group with Blanche and one of her older sisters, Genova, exhibiting a particular interest in and talent for the game of basketball. Blanche excelled at the game and won a starting position as a guard, or defensive player under the rules of the day, on the 1945-46 team at Fannin County High in Morganton. Genova, a year older than Blanche, was a substitute on that team.

Little did the Smith sisters realize when they began basketball practice in the fall of 1945 that they were to be a part of something very special in the history of athletics in Fannin County. The 1945-46 girls team won 27 consecutive games before finally losing in the Class B State Championship game in early March of 1946.

Blanche went on to start for the Fannin County girls in each of the next two seasons. The 1946-47 team, Blanche’s junior season, saw the girls once again advance to the state title game in Macon. After dispatching Ellijay, Jasper, Cumming and Winder in District 9 competition, the Fannin girls marched on to the state tourney where they defeated Hawkinsville, Soperton and Colquitt before finally falling to a powerful team from Baxley High in the finals of the state tournament.

Even though the Fannin girls did not win the state title in 1947, however, the coaches and officials recognized the outstanding play of several of the Morganton girls by electing them to the Class B All-State team for the year. Young Blanche Smith was one of the girls so honored.

Blanche played her final season at Fannin High in 1947-48 and turned in another stellar performance. That team only lost 2 games during the entire season but, unfortunately, one of those losses game in the finals of the District Tournament, denying the girls a third consecutive trip to state competition. The three year run led by Blanche Smith and her teammates, however, is one of the most glorious periods of excellence ever experienced by any team in the history of Fannin County sports.

According to her husband Fred Ganues, Blanche was one of the young ladies on the radar of some of the amateur teams of the day including the Sports Arena Blues and the Lorelei Ladies of Atlanta. Something else happened to Blanche during the 1947-48 school year, however, that would decide her fate for the remainder of her life.

One day late in that school year, Blanche entered the L&N railroad depot in Mineral Bluff to purchase a 10 cent ticket to travel to Blue Ridge. The young agent who sold her the ticket was Fred Ganues, a 1947 graduate of Copperhill High School. Fred was a basketball standout at Copperhill and, according to all accounts, a rather popular young man with the ladies. Fred and Blanche took a shine to each other and before long Blanche Smith found herself with the new surname of Ganues. The two were married in April, 1948 and remained together for the next 60 years.

After high school, Blanche devoted her life to her home and family. She and Fred welcomed a son, Fred Jr., in 1949 and Blanche went about the business of caring for the home and young Freddy. She did, however, occasionally compete in local amateur basketball from time to time. In the late 1950s husband Fred organized an amateur team that he named the Black Knights. One season he expanded the team to include a ladies teams appropriately called the Lady Black Knights. Blanche played with that team along with several local standouts including Jackie Hartness, Mary Lou Fowler and Peggy Thompson, all of whom had played at West Fannin High School.

In the mid-1960s, with young Fred Jr. in high school and nearing adulthood, Blanche decided to apply for the position School Secretary at East Fannin High School. She got the job and stayed at the High School until 1976.  After East and West Fannin High Schools were consolidated in 1976, Blanche remained at East Fannin Junior High for an additional 20 years, retiring in the mid-1990s.

Blanche and Fred were happily married from 1948 until her death in 2008, a period of 60 years. Fred was inducted into the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and died in March of that year. Blanche Smith Ganues now joins Fred as a member of that elite group.


Scott Burger

West Fannin High School had no bigger rival in athletics than the Bobcats of Gilmer County. Between 1956 and 1975, the last season of football competition at West Fannin, the two teams met every season. The series ended with 10 wins for West Fannin and 10 wins for Gilmer County. Most of the games were rough, tough rockem’ sockem’ affairs, but on the night of Saturday, September 14, 1974, Scott Burger carried his Yellow Jackets teammates to a 31-0 victory at Gilmer County in one of the most amazing performances in the gridiron history of Fannin County. Burger’s performance in that game and many others has resulted in his election to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.

In the 1974 Gilmer game, Scott Burger carried the ball 12 times and gained 176 yards. He ran for touchdowns of 37, 33 and 7 yards. He kicked a 40 yard field goal and punted four times for an average of 56 yards per kick. He was successful on two extra point kicks, giving him a total of 23 points for the evening. For his efforts, Scott was named the Atlanta Constitution State of Georgia Back of the Week, a singular honor for a Fannin County athlete.

A native of McCaysville, Scott began his baseball career at the age of eight and began playing football at McCaysville Elementary School in the sixth grade. He was successful at both individual and team levels from the start and quickly established himself as one of the elite young athletes in the Fannin County and Copper Basin area.

In baseball Scott was perennially named to all-star teams in the leagues in which he competed. He was named MVP in local Little League competition in 1967, Dixie League in 1970 and Pony League in 1971 and 1972. He was a pitcher and outfielder for these early teams. As a football player at McCaysville Elementary, he led his team to the county championship in 1970. As a 13-year old in 1970, he won the area Punt, Pass and Kick Competition. He went on to win the District Championship and, in the process, discovered that he had a special gift for kicking the football. Scott credits coaches Shorty Stepp, Herdis Phillips, Bernard Harper, Frank Henson, Edward Massengale and others for contributing to his pre-high school success.

Moving on to West Fannin High School, Scott played baseball and football from 1972-1975. He won three varsity letters in each sport.

On the gridiron, Scott played defensive end and halfback on offense. He was also the team kicking star for three seasons. He was singled out by local media for his play against powerful Murphy, North Carolina High in 1972, his sophomore season, although the Yellow Jackets lost the game by the unlikely score of 2-0. During his junior season of 1973, Scott’s kicking prowess was always a factor but especially so in the games against Murray County and Model. In the Murray County game, his two extra point kicks provided the victory margin as West Fannin posted a hard-earned 14-12 victory. In the Model contest, Scott dropped one punt dead at the 3-yard line and later another at the Model 1-yard stripe. The second punt led to a Yellow Jacket score when, on the next play, a Model fumble was recovered in the end zone by the Yellow Jacket to insure a 14-0 victory for West Fannin.

As a senior in 1974, Scott put his entire game together and was named the MVP of the football team. That season, he made 60 tackles from his defensive end position, 40 unassisted and 20 assisted. He scored 90 points on 18 of 20 extra points kicks, 4 field goals and 10 rushing touchdowns. As a halfback in a wishbone offense, he gained 782 yards in 99 rushing attempts for an average of 7.9 yards per carry. He missed 1 ½ games with an injury. He was generally considered as one of the best, if not the best, high school punter in the state of Georgia with an average of 48 yards per kick.

He was honored nationally by his selection as an All-American by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based High School All Americans Association and by the Montgomery, Alabama-based Coach and Athlete Magazine.

In baseball, Scott hit over .300 in each of his three seasons and was named as the team MVP in 1975. He also pitched and posted an E.R.A. of 1.11 during his senior season. He was selected as the Most Athletic Boy in the 1975 West Fannin graduating class.

Scott is quick to point out that his high school coaches T.J. Thompson, Mike Whitley, Deaune Hedden, Mike Gates and Kenneth Wood recognized his talents and helped him develop his athletic skills.

Scott Burger was highly recruited by numerous colleges and universities and accepted a football scholarship offer by the University of Tennessee. He reported to fall drills in the autumn of 1975, but returned home due to personal reasons after a few weeks in Knoxville.

Scott loves hunting and fishing and currently makes his home in the mountaintop community of Suches, Georgia. He and his wife Deborah will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in April, 2017. They have three grown children, Jeremy, Jarod and Laci Burger Combs, and three grandchildren. He is retired following a 34-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Alden Acker


30-year old Alden Acker is the youngest member of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame Induction class of 2017. She competed in track and field, basketball and cross country at Fannin County High School from 2000 through 2004, earning four varsity letters in track and field, four in basketball and two in cross country.

Alden’s strongest event in track and field was the 400-meter run. This event involves running around the entire track one time. The 400 meter run is not for sissies. When asked about her strategy in the event, Alden echoes the words of a Clemson University track coach who taught at one of the camps she attended as a youth: ‘Start running as fast as you can and keep it up for as long as you can’. It is a demanding, grueling discipline.

Alden Acker won the Region 7AAA championship in the 400 meters all four years that she competed at FCHS. She went on to finish 5th at the state meet twice and finished 4th the other two times. She was not, however, a one trip pony in the track and field wars. She also won Region championships in the 800 meter run and long jump and was the anchor of the 400 meter, 800 meter and 1400 meter relay teams that also won gold medals at the Region level for the Lady Rebels. Overall she had a total of 12 first place finished in Region track and field competition, 6 individual titles and 6 relay titles.

Alden began competing in organized track and field and basketball before reaching the age of 10. A native of McCaysville, she was a member of the Fannin County Recreation 10 and under basketball teams that won state titles in 1995-96 and 1996-97. In Recreation League track and field, she competed in the 800 meters and long jump and won the USA track and field competition in the long jump at the state level.

The Fannin County High School girls track team won the Region 7AAA Championship in 2000-01, Alden’s freshman season. It was the first such title in school or county-wide history.

In addition to her track and field accomplishments at Fannin County High, Alden was also a valuable member of the Lady Rebel basketball squads. She was named MVP of the Battle of the States Tournament held at Towns County High School in 2003. She received the FCHS Best Defensive Player award for the 2003-04 season. While at Fannin, her basketball teams advanced to the 2001-02 state AAA Final Four and to the 2003-04 title game.

Her athletic prowess resulted in her selection as the Most Athletic Senior Girl in the 2003-04 Fannin County High School graduating class.

After graduating from high school, Alden was awarded a track and field scholarship to Georgia Southern University. She competed there for two seasons before hanging up her spikes.

Alden had developed an interest in medicine and continued her education at Chattahoochee Tech in Acworth. She embarked upon a grueling schedule of attending classes at Chattahoochee two days a week and devoting the remaining three week days to completing her clinicals at Kennesaw Wellcare, all of which required a commute from McCaysville. She persevered, however, and is now a surgical technologist at Fannin Regional Hospital. Her next goal is to become a surgical first assistant.

Alden certainly came by her athletic excellence honestly. Her mother, Sandy Brown Acker, was an outstanding basketball player at West Fannin High School and her father Charlie was involved in athletics as a youngster in his native Charlotte, North Carolina.  Sandy is the school nurse at Fannin County High School and Charlie is a geologist.

Alden currently makes her home in McCaysville with her 9-year old daughter Ava. When asked if Ava might carry on the family athletic tradition, Alden says that, so far, Ava is more interested in academic and artistic endeavors than in athletics.  But who knows what the future may hold for Ava — at about the same age her mother discovered that she could outrun just about everyone around.