We're in an awkward time right now in high school sports.
I call it September.
For football, volleyball and softball, the season has been going on for quite a while, and the idea of just another regular-season game has worn off compared to the excitement of a season-opener.
But it's still September. We're too far removed from the beginning of the season, but not yet close enough for the real anticipation of the "win-or-go-home" playoff atmosphere.
So what are we to do for the next month?
That's where the youngsters come in.
With six high schools in Columbia County, finding a decent varsity game usually isn't all that hard, but there is an alternative.
Our fair county boasts nine middle schools: Columbia, Evans, Greenbrier, Grovetown, Harlem, Lakeside, Riverside, Augusta Christian and Augusta Prep. All have active sports programs.
All offer competitive games and a chance to see what your favorite high school team might look like in the future. They also offer the chance to watch a sporting event in a wallet-friendly way. Middle school football games are less expensive than high school games, and admission to most middle school softball games is free.
How many counties offer both a middle school football and softball game for less than the price of two gallons of gas? Well, probably every county in America at this point, but that's all the more reason to check out a middle school game.
In September, football and softball are in full swing in middle schools. In the public school ranks, football teams play a seven-week season, with each team getting one bye week. The games are played each Tuesday at 5 p.m., and in recent years the schools have made an addition that has the appeal of sportsmanship all over it. It's called the Fifth Quarter.
Basically, the Fifth Quarter is a smaller game, usually played before the actual middle school football game on Tuesday night. Only seventh graders can play in the Fifth Quarter, and the time is reserved for players who normally wouldn't get into the middle school game.
Middle-school football has its share of drama and excitement. This Tuesday, Riverside (3-0) will go to Evans (3-0) in a battle for the top spot in the area. With no postseason, this will most likely be the game that decides the Columbia County Middle School Football Championship.
Evans' final home game at the soon-to-be-vacated Belair Road/Washington Road campus will be Oct. 11 against Greenbrier.
In softball, it only makes sense that Greenbrier is undefeated and untouchable in middle-school play. The champs-in-training went undefeated last season (10-0) and are two games away from accomplishing the same feat this season.
Of course, Greenbrier isn't the only team with talent. Check out the final home games of the season for several promising softball teams, including Harlem, Evans and Columbia this Wednesday.
So there are a few options to fill your sports appetite. Of course, we do have several major league baseball pennant races (go Indians), a start of a crazy NFL football season (is Tampa Bay really undefeated?) and the college football scene (is Georgia Tech for real?).
For a little local flavor, though, the area middle school teams can provide the action you're looking for and a glimpse into the future of Columbia County's high school sports.
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