By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
There are a number of key games in Class A this weekend with post season implications.
But before we get to some of those, Turner County head coach Erik Soliday is leading the resurgence of the program he helped guide to an 49-39 record from 1989 to 1996, with playoff appearances in six of those eight seasons. He led Americus to a 57-10 mark with two state titles (2000 and 2001) from 1999 to 2003, before returning to Ashburn.
Last week, he spoke about his affinity for coaching in Small Town, Georgia. But he made an interesting point about how the economy has a major impact on high school football in communities like Ashburn (population 4,125; for perspective there are 15 schools in metro Atlanta with at least 2,000 students, nearly half the population of the entire city of Ashburn).
“When times are bad, it’s a struggle for people down here because there just aren’t that many jobs,” he said. “A guy might have to shut down a garage he owns because people don’t have the money to get their car fixed. Well, when he closes, that means three or four people lose their jobs, too. A lot of times, those families have to move somewhere to find work. That can end up taking three or four kids out of your program and when you already have small numbers that really hurts.”
No. 7 Lincoln County at No. 2 Aquinas. Lincoln is 4-1, 1-0 in Region 7 while Aquinas is 5-0, 2-0. Lincoln won 44-22 last season, and according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, the Red Devils are 31-2-1 against the Irish and have won 31 straight against them since the tie (6-6) in 1970, and two consecutive wins by Aquinas in 1971 (13-6) and 1972 (45-0). Mike McIntire leads the Lincoln ground attack, while the Irish RB/LB Brendan Douglas is a legitimate candidate for Class A Player of the Year.
Turner County at Wilcox County. Turner is 5-1, 2-0 in Region 2, Wilcox is 3-2, 1-1. This one will go a long way toward determining the region champion. Turner is trying to beat the Patriots for the first time since 2007 (14-6). Wilcox has won the last four meetings by a combined score of 138-20, and the Rebels haven’t scored on Wilcox since a 21-20 loss in 2008. Their rivalry dates by to 1960. The Patriots hold the upper hand, 21-12-2.
No. 3 Calvary Day at No. 9 Savannah Christian. Calvary Day is 5-0, 1-0 in Region 3-Division A, Savannah Christian is 3-2, 1-0. The Cavaliers can show how “real” they are when they take on the cross-town rival Raiders. The defending Class A champs struggled early trying to make up for the loss for several key players now competing on the college level, including defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown (Louisville) and linebacker Nardo Govan (Georgia Southern). Since starting 0-2, Savannah Christian has won three straight, outscoring those opponents 113-35. Calvary Day began last season 7-0 before losing to the Raiders, 49-7. The Cavs are led by senior quarterback Jake Clemens while the Raiders are paced by RB/DB Jalen Myrick.