Thomas Knerr and Rusty Allen have been playing soccer together since they were 4 years old, mostly within the Augusta Arsenal club organization.
They've often joined the best players from Richmond and Columbia counties, but for the past several years Knerr and Allen haven't been able to play for a team that aptly represents the entire Augusta area - until now.
Knerr and Allen now join players like Marvin Torvic, from South Aiken, and Robert Kropp, from North Augusta, on a squad called CSRA U-19.
After years of competing separately and losing out to more collaborative programs from bigger cities, the Augusta Arsenal, North Augusta and Aiken soccer clubs cooperated last summer to form CSRA U-19.
The team, which is competing in this weekend's Augusta Arsenal Shootout at Fort Gordon, was a project to determine if the clubs could work together to form the best team to represent the whole community.
"In the past, you might have four or five good guys on each team, but against teams like those from Atlanta, that doesn't really work," Knerr said. "And it's always hard to field a good team past U-15 because everyone wants to go their own way or they're not having fun anymore. So this is an opportunity to still field a good team and play with decent players."
Vic Hawk, longtime coach with the Arsenal, organized and coaches the team.
"The reason we did it is that over the years in this age group, because we have a smaller player pool than some other places, it's made it difficult for us to compete with the top programs," Hawk said. "We want to give the best players here the opportunity to stay here and play together - to play for their community."
CSRA U-19 has played mostly college showcase events, winning one, but hopes to build its roster for next season and join league play in South Carolina.
Hawk said all three clubs have shown great support, and he thinks the team should be competitive for the South Carolina Cup, especially if the best current U-17 players come together next year.
The team will compete in South Carolina because of greater opportunity, Hawk said. South Carolina has less major clubs than Georgia and won't require quite as vigorous a travel schedule.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.