Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

November 20, 2012

Turner faces Bobcats, Adams

TIFTON —  The Turner County Rebels have plenty of reasons to be thankful in 2012. They have secured their first winning record in five years, they are in the Class A state public school playoffs and even better, the Dooly County Bobcats, their next opponent, is not only nearby but familiar to them.

It is a straight shot between Ashburn and Vienna on U.S. Highway 41. Twenty-seven miles and Arabi and Cordele are the only things that separate the two. Dooly and Turner are mainstays in Class A and are very familiar with one another, though they have not played each other since 2009.

“Our kids know their kids,” said Turner’s coach Erik Soliday.

Early in the year, the Rebels looked to be a playoffs cinch. They started 5-1, the only blemish being a two-point loss against Seminole County in Donalsonville. Then they ran into a healthy Wilcox County and found themselves on the back end of 38-0. That was the beginning of a three-game streak that dropped them 5-4 and on the outside looking in, their power ranking having dropped to 18th. Only the top 16 teams qualify for the state tournament.

Their last chance appeared to be the regular season finale against the Clinch County Panthers, who were No. 16 and with a dual purpose in mind — staving off their first losing season in nearly 30 years. Turner won, 30-20. While Soliday believed it was enough to get in, a few nervous days later , it was confirmed. Even better, the win and a few losses for other schools jumped them to No. 12.

“During the meat of our schedule, we played some pretty good games,” he said. Making state was the capper. “You know you’ve had a pretty decent year if you’re practicing Thanksgiving week.”

The Turner County school system elected to take the entire week for holidays. What would seem like a disruption has been, according to Soliday, actually beneficial for practices. “We actually have more time to do it,” he said, adding that they have been able to work in the mornings, during hours normally spent in the classroom.

The Rebels will have their hands full on both sides of the ball. Dooly County defensive star Montravius Adams is foremost in Soliday’s thoughts about protecting his offense.  The 6-3, 290 lb. defensive tackle has offers from schools nationwide. Rivals considers him the third best prospect at all positions in the state and 16th nationally.

Practice for the Rebels has included drills to try to contain him, but the coach admits that it does not equal the real thing. “You can’t really simulate in practice,” he said.

He also knows that Adams cannot occupy all of his thoughts. “They have enough good players as it is. You do the best you can.”

Against the Schley County Wildcats in their final regular season game, halfback Chanin Hamilton racked up 225 yards on the ground. Most of the remainder of the offensive effort in the 48-0 victory was filled by quarterback A.J. Smith, who ended with 217 passing yards on only nine completions.

The Bobcats carry an 8-2 record into the contest. While Bobcat Grove is usually been a place of doom, both losses have come within its confines. The two teams’ only shared opponent, Wilcox County, defeated them 28-14 early in the season and Marion County upset them, 12-7, a month later.

Playoffs luck has also been against them. While Dooly has entered state play the last three years, they have yet to make it out of the first round. The last time they advanced as far as the second round was 2007.

Turner, which is rebounding from a 3-7 record last year, made the playoffs in 2008 with a 5-5 record, but were knocked out in the first round. Their last deep trip into the playoffs was in 2008, when they reached the quarterfinals and ended with a record of 10-3.

The winner of Friday’s game advances to the next round, where they will play the winner of Commerce and one of the Rebels’ early season opponents, Seminole County.

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