CLOVER -- The most successful chapter in Clover football history came to an end Friday.
Coach Jet Turner, who led the Blue Eagles to the Class AAAA Division II state championship in December, announced his resignation from a program he molded into one of the best in the state.
Turner has taken the head coaching job at private school Orangeburg Prep.
"This was a family decision,'' Turner said. "The financial situation will allow my wife, Karen, to stay home with our three young daughters.''
Turner met with his Clover players and assistant coaches Friday before lunch. He described the meeting as being emotional for everyone involved.
"It was a gut-wrenching decision, one of the hardest I've ever made,'' Turner said. "There is never a good time to leave a place you love, but you have to do what's best for your family.
"The kids in Clover are my family, too, and the meeting was really brutal for me. I cried like a baby while telling them what was happening. We've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the program, and it's hard to leave it."
Turner came to Clover from Class A Ware Shoals in 2003. Questions were raised whether Turner could lead the Blue Eagles into Class AAAA.
Those thoughts were unfounded, but because of them, Turner had to rebuild his coaching staff nearly from scratch. It didn't take long for the doubters to change stripes.
Clover fans were out in force at Williams-Brice Stadium when Clover beat Beaufort 23-14 for its first-ever state championship in a boys sport.
Turner was 40-20 at Clover, 24-4 over the last two seasons. The Blue Eagles moved to Class AAAA last year and won the Region 3-AAAA title with a 6-0 record, going 11-2 overall.
Clover was 13-2 this season and finished second in the region to Northwestern, at 5-1. Clover's only losses were to Northwestern and Class AAAA Division I champ Byrnes, which beat Northwestern in the state semifinals.
Turner said his official start date at Orangeburg Prep has not been determined and he's not sure how long he will remain at Clover.
Clover principal Ron Wright agreed that Turner is doing what's best for him and his family.
"We are going to miss him,'' Wright said. "He's a great guy, and I have nothing negative to say. He brought us winning football with character.
"We will advertise the job and have an open process. We'll take it from there. We love the wing-T offense, but I won't say that running it will be a requirement for who we hire. We will basically look for someone who can continue the success we've enjoyed under Jet.''
Several other factors, Turner said, figured into his decision.
Turner and Todd Layton, Orangeburg Prep's athletics director, are old friends. Although Turner was ahead of Layton in school, both graduated from Thomas Sumter Academy.
"Orangeburg Prep is only 45 minutes from Sumter, so I'll be closer to home,'' Turner said. "They offered me a nice financial package. The people there have been very good to me and my family.''
Turner will teach physical education and two weightlifting classes.
Junior running back/linebacker Ricky Moore is one of Clover's top returning players. Moore ran for three touchdowns in the state championship.
Moore said earlier this season that playing for Turner and his wing-T offense made football fun, a sentiment shared by nearly ever Blue Eagles offensive player.
"I'm shocked, shook up,'' Moore said. "He's my favorite coach of all time. If I needed anything, I could go to him and he'd help. I'll miss his friendship the most. Nobody on our team had anything against him.
"Every day when we went to practice, it wasn't like, 'Oh no, another day of practice.' It was fun and we wanted to get out there. I had no idea this was coming. Coach Turner gave us a state championship, a memory that will be with us a lifetime.''