After leading his team to the Region 1-A championship and a return to the GHSA Class A playoffs, Turner County head football coach Erik Soliday has been named the 2005 All-Tiftarea Coach of the Year.

Soliday is a former Georgia Coach of the Year after winning back-to-back state titles at Americus High. He returned to Ashburn after five years with the Panthers. Nine years ago Soliday left Turner County to take the head coaching job at Henry County High. It was during Soliday’s first run in Turner that the Rebels won their last region championship.

Last season, in his first back at the helm of the Turner program, the Rebels advanced to the playoffs after finishing second in the league standings.

Soliday attributes the success of his teams to being prepared.

“We work awful hard and put the time in,” Soliday said when informed of his selection as the Coach of the Year. “You’ve only got so much talent, so there is no substitute for being prepared.

“We try to run through every situation that the kids could possibly see on the field.”

After the strong finish last season, there were many who thought that the Rebels would challenge for the league crown. However, some doubt arose when Turner dropped its season opener to Wilcox County, 12-10.

Soliday commented following that game, “I guess we just thought that all we had to do was show up.”

It didn’t take long for the Rebels to get on track. They got a close 14-12 win over Irwin County and then gave the powerful Class AAAA Lee County Trojans a scare. Then it was on to the region schedule when Turner proceeded to run the table.

The highlight of the regular season was a 14-7 win over the Clinch County Panthers which all but sealed the region title. The win was particularly sweet for the Rebels as there was a little revenge from the 57-7 drubbing they received last year from the Panthers.

The Rebels went on to a second round playoff appearance where they finally fell to the Hornets of Savannah County Day. The week prior to that, the Rebels tasted their first bit of postseason success in a decade as they rallied to defeat the Vikings of Pacelli High.

“It is great to see the hard work pay off,” Soliday said.

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