GRIZZLIES ARE COMING
By Scott Rouch Staff Writer Columbia County News Times
Pop Warner football is coming to CSRA
The Grovetown Grizzlies will begin practice in August along with nine other organizations in the newly-formed East Georgia Pop Warner League.
Within each organization are seven divisions for children ages 5 to 15, ranging from Tiny-Mite (5 to 7 years, 35 to 75 pounds) to Unlimited (11 to 14 years, 105 pounds-plus).
Jimmy Cronan, who will coach the Grizzlies’ Tiny-Mite team, and Burt Rayburn, who will coach a squad within the Martinez Raiders, were the driving force behind the creation of the league. After considering it last year, the two men took action this year.
“We see the demand,” said Rayburn, who has coached youth football in Columbia County for 28 years. “We met at Jimmy’s house the first week in January, and we said let’s just jump right on in and find out what steps we need to take if we’re going to try to do it in the fall.” Cronan got the paperwork together, contacted Pop Warner and got approval from the city in February. There was more than one thing about Pop Warner that was appealing to Cronan and Rayburn.‘‘We will be the only football league in this area that has cheerleaders,” Cronan said. “Just like Pop Warner football, it’s Pop Warner cheer, and we’re bringing that to the table.”
They also like that there are no tryouts; once a player is registered, he is on the team. Another plus is teams have a chance to go to the Pop Warner Super Bowl at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. It puts emphasis on work in the classroom, including a no-pass, no-play provision Cronan likes. They plan on practicing at Goodale Park and playing at Liberty Park, where they are in the process of building two fields with help from the city of Grovetown. There is space for the fields, but they need to be graded.“We’re actually looking for some sponsors now to help with the cost,” said Jennifer Evans, Grovetown’s community events coordinator. “We’re pretty much going to have to get them graded for grass and put the field goal posts up.” “Grovetown has given us tons of support,” Rayburn said. “They’ve given us facilities, they’ve given us the opportunity to use their fields and call them our home base.” While they have a sponsorship from Sports Authority, the league is looking for more to help defray the costs of the league and the construction of the field. “Fundraising, sponsorships and registration fees will be a big part of what we do, but sponsorships are what we think are going to drive us at first,” Cronan said.
Other area organizations in the league include another one in Grovetown, two in Martinez, and organizations in Evans, Augusta, Harlem, Thomson, Fort Gordon, west Augusta and Greenbrier. The cost during early registration, from now to June is $150 and covers jersey, pants and socks (players must furnish their own helmet and shoulder pads). After June, the cost is $175. The same pricing applies to cheerleaders. “We will never turn a kid away. If he needs equipment we’ll go get it for him,” Cronan said.
To register or for more information, go to eastgapopwarner.com or call Cronan at (706) 840-1210 or Rayburn at (706) 305-8169.