Columbia County might be rife with baseball fever in the spring, but for a second consecutive season, athletes will have another option.
The Columbia County Area Youth Football Association will start its second year in February. The organization is not affiliated with the Columbia County Recreation Department, but it does have coaches who have coached or still coach in the county's rec league.
CCAYFA board member Gary Yates, a longtime rec league football coach and former coach at Augusta Christian, said the new football league wasn't meant to be a rival to the rec department, only as another option for those whose primary passion is football.
"Baseball is really big in Columbia County," Yates said. "Kids can play baseball almost year-round. We found out last year, and we're finding out this year, a lot of kids prefer football."
Yates will find out next month if that still holds true. He said the inaugural season was a success, with the schedule culminating in a championship game at Augusta Christian. The association had only one age group its first year.
This year, it will try to field six teams in two age groups -- 9-11 and 12-13.
Anyone interested can attend one of the group's combine days.
On Feb. 7 and Feb. 14, CCAYFA will hold registration and a workout at Blanchard Park. Registration will cost $55 and requires a birth certificate.
CCAYFA rented the fields at Patriots Park last year and plan to do so again. Yates said Columbia County used the money to fund its own football equipment.
Yates said players provided most of their own equipment last year. Players held fundraisers to pay for their game uniforms.
Yates foresees a similar system for equipment this year, but he said the association would attempt to round up more sponsors and hold equipment drives, where players and teams solicit donations and used equipment and encourage area residents to scour their storage areas for extra equipment.
"We think there's probably a lot of football equipment in garages that we could be using for our kids.," Yates said.
The CCAYFA season will run 10 games and feature a championship. Yates said he received positive feedback from participants and parents last season.
Yates said the league would use the combines to try to balance the teams according to talent and to create more parity.
Braves to make Evans stop
The Atlanta Braves lost John Smoltz and finished further back in the National League East than they might have liked in recent years. But they're hitting the fan trail throughout the Southeast during the last week of February.
Select Braves coaches and players will be in Evans at 1 p.m. on Jan. 31 at Academy Sports and Outdoors on Washington Road.
The Braves will meet fans and sign autographs as part of a six-city tour by the Atlanta Braves Community Caravan.
Players and coaches also will stop in Macon, Ga., on Jan. 27; Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 28; Auburn, Ala., on Jan. 29; Spartanburg, S.C., on Jan. 30; and Athens, Ga., on Jan. 31.
Falcons running back Jerry Crouch is brought down by a group of Redskins during a Columbia County Area Youth Football Association game last season. The organization will be running its second season this spring. One-day registration and combines are slated for Feb. 7 and 14 at Blanchard Woods Park.
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