Monthly Archives: February 2018

1996-97 Fannin County High School Girls Team

 Johnny Farmer coached the Fannin County High School girls team from 1981-2007. During his time at the school, the Lady Rebels won a total of 509 games, won two state championships and finished as state runners-up on two occasions. The 1996-97 Fannin County High School girls team advanced to the Class AA championship game before losing to Thomasville. In recognition of their dramatic journey to the final game, the 1996-97 Fannin County Lady Rebels team has been chosen as the team selection in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame induction class of 2018.

As the Fannin girls gathered for practice in the fall of 1996, the outlook for the coming season loomed as a big question mark. The previous year’s team had posted an all-time team best record of 28-1 and had advanced to the state tournament final 4 before tasting defeat for the first and only time. Five seniors from that team graduated including four starting players. The lone returnee, however, was the sensational Ashley Herendon who competed as a junior for the 1996-97 team. As the season unfolded, the starting lineup for the Lady Rebels generally included three sophomores and two juniors. Only one senior, Leigh Muse, was on hand to provide leadership for the young group.

From the get-go the 1996-97 season was a roller coaster ride for the Fannin girls and their supporters. Probably based more on past accomplishments more than current prospects, the Lady Rebels were ranked # 6 in the preseason poll published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The young ladies started strong winning their first 8 games including a heart-stopping 46-45 decision over the also unbeaten Pickens County team in a game played in Jasper. Ashley Herendon’s free throw with 13 seconds remaining provided the victory margin.

Another of the high points of the season occurred a few days later when the Lady Rebels defeated Stockbridge in the first round of the Taco Bell Christmas Tournament at Blue Ridge. The victory was the 300th career win for Coach Farmer. One of the low points of the season came the following night as the Lady Rebels lost their first game of the season, 46-47 to Murphy NC, a team that the Lady Rebels had defeated earlier in the season. The team rebounded and on the eve of the last regular season game on Friday, February 14, with a record of 18-3 were favored to win the regular season Region 7AA championship, needing only a victory over Forsyth Central the following evening to wrap up the crown.

Tragic news awaited the Lady Rebels and the entire student body at Fannin County High School, however, on Friday morning when word came that former Lady Rebel standout and a member of the 1995-96 team, Sabrina Gibson, had died in an automobile in Cleveland, Tennessee. After completing her eligibility at Fannin, Sabrina had continued her career at Cleveland State Community College. Suddenly basketball championships seemed insignificant as the young people of the school were forced to cope with the death of one of their own. The Lady Rebels proceeded with the final regular season game that evening in an atmosphere of grief tempered somewhat by the resiliency of youth in a time of crisis.

The Fannin girls defeated Forsyth Central and entered the Region 7AA tournament as the number one seed. They defeated White County in the semi-finals and then were blown out by Pickens County in their most lackluster performance of the year in the Region Championship game. Both the champion and runner up advanced to the State Tournament, however, so the Lady Rebels had some more hoops to play.

The real on-court drama began when the Lady Rebels squared off against East Hall in the first round game. Down by 17 points at one point in the third quarter, the Fannin girls stormed back, tied the game in regulation and won in overtime, 50-49, on a buzzer beating field goal by sophomore Stacy Parris. After the East Hall victory Stacy could have uttered the old vaudeville phrase “you ain’t seen nothing yet” because her post-season heroics were far from over. In the quarterfinal match against Dade County Stacy calmly sank a free throw with 15 seconds remaining to propel the Lady Rebels to another one-point victory, 41-40.

The trifecta of one-point victories came in the semi-final game against Hancock Central in another overtime thriller. With no time remaining on the clock, Stacy Parris again drilled a free throw to give the Fannin girls a 60-59 victory and a spot in the title game against powerful Thomasville. The magic finally ran out in that game and the Lady Rebels left Macon with a runner up trophy and an overall record of 23 victories and 5 defeats.

The 1996-97 Fannin County girls basketball team had many heroes. Junior Ashley Herendon and sophomore Stacy Parris were outstanding all season and both young ladies have been inducted into the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame. Point guard and queen of the behind the back dribble, Roxie Reed, was a rock in guiding the team. Post players Leah Nelson, Tina Grice and Jodie Thomas controlled the ‘paint’ and backboards like guards at Ft. Knox. Leigh Muse, the only senior on the team, provided leadership and lots of help at one of the wing positions. Strong supporting help came from back-up point guards Tara Dillinger and Amanda Newton, inside or ‘post’ players Kelly Queen, Cheri Shinpaugh, Carrie Dills and Cindy Williams along with ‘wings’ Kristy Galloway and Rachael Nicholson. Assisting Johnny Farmer with the coaching duties was Eddie Payne.

After the season, Ashley Herendon became the first basketball player in Fannin County High School history to be named first team All-State when she was so honored by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Seven of the sophomores on the team, Stacy Parris, Tina Grice, Leah Nelson, Roxie Reed, Cindy Williams, Amanda Newton and Rachael Nicholson would go on to be the heart of the 1998-99 team that won a State Championship. And, kudos should also go to Fannin High teacher and current assistant principal T.C. Dillard who was honored as the team’s Top Fan for her indefatigable support.

Tim Jabaley

Between 1985 and 1993 Tim Jabaley played the game of football as an offensive lineman first at Fannin County High School and then at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His proficiency at that craft has been recognized by the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame voters who have elected him to the induction class of 2018. Tim also played in the defensive line at Fannin County but is best remembered for his performances on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage.

Generally offensive linemen slug it out with their opponents in the trenches and do not get a lot of publicity unless they miss a block that causes a hot-shot running back or quarterback to get clobbered by the opposing defense. Tim Jabaley, however, enjoyed a notable exception to that situation on the night of September 11, 1987. That evening, the Fannin Rebels met arch-rival Copper Basin in a football contest played in Blue Ridge. The Copper Basin Cougars were in the midst of their gridiron glory days and had defeated Fannin County in 6 of the 7 games that the rivals had played in a series that began in 1982. The teams met two times in 1982 and 1983 with Copper Basin winning each game.

The 1987 Copper Basin game saw the Rebels rush for 234 yards in a 29-14 victory. At 6’ 5”, 255 pounds, Tim Jabaley was a standout during the entire game. After reviewing and grading the game films, the Fannin County coaches fully realized the formidable force that Tim had been in the game and named him as the OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME. That’s right, an offensive tackle named as the outstanding offensive player in a big game. In an ironic twist, Rebel running back Brian Satterfield, arguably the best running back in Fannin County history and member of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame, was selected as the defensive player of the game in recognition of his 13 tackles and pass interception return for a touchdown.

Tim Jabaley played football, basketball and baseball as a youngster but his football career began in earnest when he played Little League football for a team coached by his father, Dr. R. T. Jabaley Sr. in the seventh grade. His father was an outstanding athlete in his own right and is also a member of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame. Then as an 8th grader, Tim played football at West Fannin Junior High School where his coach was yet another Hall of Fame member, Mike Ballew.

In his first season at Fannin County High, Tim played defensive tackle and was also a member of the wrestling team. He began to play both offense and defense as a sophomore and found his niche on the gridiron on the offensive side of the ball. On a team level, his high school career had dramatic ups and downs including an 0-10 record his freshman season followed by 6-4 and 7-3 records the next two seasons. Individually, his high school career reached a high water mark during his senior season of 1988. He was elected as team captain that season and was rewarded for his outstanding play by being named to the Atlanta Journal/Constitution Class AA All-State Honorable Mention team. He was recruited by numerous colleges and universities including the University of Georgia, Clemson, North Carolina State and UT Chattanooga. Tim and his family were treated to numerous on-campus visits and he has a stack of major college football game ticket stubs several inches thick as a reminder of his recruitment.

After completing his senior season at Fannin County, Tim Jabaley was awarded a scholarship to play college football at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. His goal from the get-go was to become a medical doctor so he embarked on his college career pursuing a rigorous pre-med academic regimen in addition to the considerable time demands of playing football at a major school. Tim is a very intense and motivated individual and he managed to handle the academic and athletic demands in exemplary fashion.

Academically, Tim Jabaley completed his stay at UTC graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Biology in 1993. He won three varsity letters in football, starting for the Mocs at offensive tackle in 1991 and 1992. In 1990 the Chattanooga Quarterback Club named him as the Most Improved Player on the squad. In 1992 he received the Dayle May Award for having the highest overall grade point average of all athletes at UTC.

During his career at UTC, Tim competed against powerhouses such as Alabama, Clemson, Boise State and Marshall. He played at historic Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, Death Valley in Clemson, South Carolina and on the famous blue field at Boise State in Idaho. He says that Alabama defensive ends Eric Curry and John Copeland were his toughest individual opponents. The opening game of the 1992 season against Boise State in faraway Idaho stands out as his biggest thrill in college. The Mocs upset the Broncos 35-20 in that memorable contest.

After graduating from UTC, Tim Jabaley headed for the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis and then on to Birmingham, Alabama to serve his internship and residency. He then found his way home to Fannin County where he opened his Internal Medicine practice in McCaysville in 2003. He remains in his local practice today in his hometown where lots of people refer to him as ‘Doc’. Tim says that his love of the area and its people and his family will keep him in Fannin County until he retires. He has two teen-age children, Timothy and Olivia. Timothy plays basketball and Olivia plays volleyball and is a cheerleader. His mother Kay continues to make her home in McCaysville. Tim’s father, Ron Jabaley, passed away in November, 2013.

Dr. Ronald Timothy Jabaley Jr. joins his younger sister Leslie as a member of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Both join their father, the late Dr. Ronald Timothy Jabaley Sr., who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Stephanie Scearce

2018 Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Stephanie Scearce began her competitive basketball career as a second grader and did not hang up her sneakers until a knee injury permanently sidelined her just before her senior season at Kennesaw State University. It was her third serious knee injury in a career full of a lot of euphoric highs and a few devastating lows.

Stephanie enjoyed her first taste of glory as a member of the Georgia Class C Parks and Recreation Department State Championship 9 and 10 year old team in 1997. She was tall and talented and full of both trepidation and enthusiasm when she reported to Coach Johnny Farmer to begin her career at Fannin County High School in the late fall of 2000. She won a starting job as a low post (inside) player beginning with her very first game as a freshman. 

Coach Farmer says that Stephanie was one of the hardest working players that he coached. And he adds that her hard work was focused. She was continually working at improving specific parts of her game — working on a new offensive move, ball handling skills, free throw shooting, boxing out for rebound position and other disciplines — with no wasted energy. She always reported for practice immediately after her final class and worked hard until it was time to go home. She also devoted countless hours to a weightlifting regimen to improve her strength. As a low post player she generally battled the biggest and strongest player for the opposition and strength was a necessity to effectively compete.

Stephanie set a number of goals, both individual and team, for her basketball career and by the time she finished her sophomore season at Fannin High she was well on her way to accomplishing those goals. On an individual level, her goal of being a first-team All-State selection was realized when the Atlanta Tip-Off Club and Atlanta Journal and Constitution named her to the GHSA Class AAA All-State First Team of the Year. She was also selected as the Lady Rebels Best Offensive Player. Dozens of letters from college recruiters arrived at the Scearce house and Stephanie was considered as a top Division 1 College prospect. She had developed a strong relationship with the coaching staff at SEC power Auburn, however, and was making preliminary plans to spend her college days at the ‘loveliest village on the plains’ in Auburn, Alabama.

One of Stephanie’s team goals was to win a State Championship and the 2001-2002 team came very close, advancing to the state semi-finals before losing. After the season, Coach Farmer says that he had high hopes that the returning squad for the 2002-2003 season would have a very realistic shot at bringing home a third State Championship to Blue Ridge. The team would be led by junior Stephanie Scearce and two other members of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame, junior Alden Acker and senior Mandy Anderson.

The 2002-2003 season had barely begun when the unthinkable happened. As Stephanie was driving to the basket in a Christmas Tournament game at Towns County she felt a ‘pop’ in her right knee. The injury was diagnosed as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear and Stephanie was done for the season. She had surgery a short while later.

The injury was so serious that several of the teams that had been recruiting Stephanie, including Auburn, backed away. She went through an intensive rehabilitation program, however, and came back for her senior season in 2003-2004 at or near 100% of her physical skills prior to the injury. Despite the injury she remained on the recruiting lists of numerous colleges. Her senior season would become one to remember in Fannin County High School basketball history.

After a sluggish start, the 2003-2004 Fannin girls developed into a force to be reckoned with, finished with an overall record of 25-8 and advanced all the way to the Class AAA State Championship game before losing to arch-rival Gainesville. Stephanie averaged 17.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game and was named as the Lady Rebels Most Valuable Player. The Georgia sports writers named her to the Class AAA All-State second team in recognition of her great season. Even missing most of her junior season and the first few games of her senior season, Stephanie Scearce scored 1,375 points during her career at Fannin County High School making her the third leading career scorer in school history. She was only 28 points shy of reaching the #1 spot. She was second in school history in career rebounds with 799. She graduated with honors and was ranked 26 academically in the 2004 graduating class. She was a member of the National Honor Society for three years.

Stephanie decided to continue her basketball career at Kennesaw State University, a school that was in the midst of moving up from Division II to Division I status for athletic competition. She had an auspicious debut with the Owls, scoring 18 points and gathering 13 rebounds in her first game against Southern Polytechnic. She went on to have a solid freshman year playing in all 30 games and finishing the year averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds per game. She had an individual game high of 24 points in a game against West Georgia.

Prior to the beginning of her sophomore season of 2005-2006, Stephanie found her career derailed again when she suffered another ACL tear, this time in her left knee. Another period of rehabilitation followed and she was healthy and ready to go when her junior season began in the fall of 2006. She was a major contributor to the Owls that season averaging 10.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. She led the team in rebounds with a total of 192. The injury demon appeared again before her senior season and she decided not to go through another round of rehabilitation and prepare for life without basketball.

Stephanie Scearce graduated from Kennesaw State University with a B.S. in Communications in 2008. An exceptionally bright, well-spoken young lady she landed a job as Executive Director with the Fannin County Development Authority in January of 2009 and remained in that position for nearly seven years. Her focus was in bringing new industry and jobs to Fannin County and in assisting existing businesses grow and develop. In October, 2015 she was offered and accepted a position as Northwest Georgia Project Manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development. She makes her home in Woodstock, Georgia.

Throughout her career, Stephanie Scearce has been fortunate to have a strong support group led by her mother and father, Mike and Yevette Scearce. Mike is a banker and Yevette has been a 4th grade teacher at East Fannin Elementary School for more than 20 years. Stephanie gives Mike and Yevette much of the credit for her development as a basketball player, student and the sharp and sophisticated businesswoman that she is today.