TIFTON — New Turner County head football coach Nick Hayes could hardly ask for a better beginning to his head coaching career.

“We started with the opening kickoff and didn’t look back,” he said. The Rebels had a 14-0 lead against Worth County after a quarter which expanded to 28-7 at intermission. When the final horn sounded, Turner was a 42-21 winner.

Hayes described this first victory as “very special,”

“It’s really nice to go 1-0,” he said, adding that his players and coaching staff did a phenomenal job. They will try to double that record Friday as the Cook Hornets come to Alan Hobby Field for the first time. Cook is 0-1, having dropped their opener to Westover last week, 47-16.

Cook, too, has a new coach for 2019. Jamie Rogers, formerly of Baker County, Fla., took over from Bobby Jones this season. Versus Westover, the Hornets got on the scoreboard first on an 80-yard run by Jamarion Walker, but struggled afterwards.

It’s evident, said Hayes, that Cook is athletic. He described them as senior-driven. Seemingly nearly half of the squad’s online roster are 12th graders, including standouts such as Jaquan McMillian and Keyshawn Lucy. They got off on the wrong foot against Westover, but Hayes is certainly aware of Cook’s long tradition of success. The Hornets have made state every year since 2000.

Hayes said Cook will have a slightly different look than what fans are used to seeing. Rogers has switched the offense away from the Wing T and Hayes said it was similar to what Turner is running.

Historically, the rivalry between Turner and Cook is quite a short one. Though separated by a mere 43 miles of interstate, they have only matched up once since a consolidated Turner opened in 1957. Sparks-Adel and Ashburn, which played football in each school system before consolidation, also had only one known meeting all the way back in 1933. Cook won last year’s game by a 16-13 score.

Behind quarterback Karmello Lawson, Turner was strong from the first snap Friday. Elijah Stephens had touchdown runs of 28 and 10 yards, plus a fumble recovery on special teams. Keonvay Clark was on the spot to turn an offensive fumble recovery into a score. Aerian Stephens ran for a touchdown and Lawson contributed with a scoring pass to Jaman Morris.

“He’s a very special talent,” said Hayes of Lawson. He complimented Elijah Stephens for his efforts on the field and also the players protecting them — “Anchored by the big boys up front.”

Another highlight from the victory was kick scoring. In 2018, Turner was credited with only seven point-after kicks and no field goals. Now, Hayes has two kickers on his roster, Angel Cortez and Ivan Zapote.

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