Originally created 04/22/00

Augusta welcomes Stallions



They were determined to set tradition the right way.

Under the cover of barbecue smoke, Joe Corbitt and his crew of fellow fans had their grills set up in the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center parking lot several hours before the Augusta Stallions first-ever home opener Friday night.

They were among a handful of tailgaters, but said the ritual was necessary to properly christen the new team.

"(Football) is something that we have been needing in Augusta for a long time," said Mr. Corbitt.

At 6:30 p.m., two lines of fans flowed from the civic center's door to Seventh Street.

"It's going to be an adjustment. You are sitting right on top of the action here," said James Jackson, looking on from his seat inside the arena.

Massive nets shielded fans from practice balls that were expected to soar past the end zones -- which are separated by only 50 yards of artificial turf.

Although arena football is different from the kind played outdoors, supporters said a rose by any other name still smells as sweet.

"This is the South," Mr. Jackson said. "This is football country."

The fans showed what kind of support they would give the team during player introductions.

The crowd booed through the introductions of the Tomcat players. When the Stallions trotted out on the field through smoke -- remnants left from fireworks that earlier sprayed the ceiling -- they were given a standing ovation.

"We drove through twelve hours of storms to bring the team some good luck," said Ohio-resident Michael Blum, whose son A. J. Blum is number 72 on the Augusta team.

The Stallions have even proved to be a rallying point for some who don't always see eye-to-eye.

Joshua Haynes, a Lucy C. Laney alum said that he and his brother, David, a T.W. Josey graduate will always be rivals at heart, but the Stallions will be their common ground.

"Win, lose or draw, let that be known that we are behind (the Stallions)" said Mr. Haynes.

Reach Clarissa J. Walker at (706) 828-3851 or cjwalker@augustachronicle.com.