The 2006 middle school football season began more than two weeks ago, and the schedule called for the Evans Middle School Knights to play its first home game Wednesday.
Instead, the home opener was on the road. A new football field sits empty at the school's new campus on Hereford Farm Road.
"Our field still isn't completed," Evans Middle football coach Blake Crewe said. "The grass has not completely taken yet so nobody will step on the field this fall. It's been a challenge."
Not only will the football team play a season without their home field but the girl's softball team also is in the same predicament. Crewe said the lack of rain this summer and an unknown vehicle that got onto the field before the school year began and left tire tracks are mainly to blame.
At the start of the first practice in early August, Crewe, his coaching staff and several dozen middle schoolers were without a football field. Crewe scrambled to find a place to practice.
An open field, 40-yards long, at Blanchard Park was designated the team's home away from home.
"We've had to travel every day," Crewe said. "It's been terrible. We've got to put the boys on a bus every day, and we can't get on a real football field."
Just like their high school counterparts, the middle school teams also had to deal with excessive heat through mid-August. When the heat didn't cancel practice, a series of thunderstorms made things worse.
"There's not much shelter over there, so we sometimes had to cram the kids in cars or just stay at the school till it was over. Then we went to practice on a short, muddy field," Crewe said.
The realization of how bad things were for the team really hit home when Crewe sat down to crunch some numbers. The Evans Middle football team annually fields 65-70 boys on the roster. Only one school bus was available to transport the boys to the off-campus practices after school. That bus holds a maximum of 50 boys, including their equipment.
The numbers didn't match up, and, for the first time in school history, Crewe was forced to cut some boys from the team.
"That's the worst part about it all. This is the first year we've ever cut kids," Crewe said.
"You don't want to cut boys from a middle school team, but we just didn't have room on the bus," he said.
By luck of the draw, Evans Middle got the bye in the first week of middle school play Aug. 30.
Instead of a game, the team was granted permission to practice on the Evans High School practice field by Evans football coach Marty Jackson.
The second week of play, which took place Wednesday, included a scheduled home game for the middle school Knights. Jackson allowed the Evans Middle team to play the season opener, and the rest of this year's home games, on the high school campus at Blanchard Stadium.
"When we heard that, we were happy about it," Devante England, an eighth-grader on the Evans Middle team, said.
England, 14, said he stands at 6 feet 1 inch and weighs in at 390 pounds. His coach confirmed the numbers. The lineman is just one of the reasons that Crewe, despite the lack of a true home field, is optimistic about the 2006 season.
"We don't have the speed we had last year, but this is the biggest team we've ever had," Crewe said.
The size wasn't enough in Wednesday night's season opener. The Evans Middle team lost to Lakeside Middle 14-0.
The home field still sits untouched. Crewe said he hopes the field will be ready for use by the spring for the middle school soccer season.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.