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July 9, 2010
By PAUL MONTANA - Bulletin Staff Writer

For those avid football fans who can't bear to wait through August training camps for high school, college and NFL football to arrive, there is another football season just around the corner.

The Virginia Storm, a semi-pro football team based in Martinsville, begins its season Saturday with a road game against the Richmond County Golden Bears in Rockingham, N.C.

This is the first year that the team has called Martinsville home, as it previously hailed from Gretna. The relocation was made largely because of the team's roster, which features numerous players who formerly competed in the Piedmont District and continue to live in the Martinsville-Henry County area.

The Storm, whose players range from recent high school graduates to coaches in their 30s, has been practicing twice per week since late March, and players can't wait to hit the field.

"The season is just getting started, so right now we're just finding our niche," said Storm center Curtis Hairston. "We have a lot of weapons, and offensively we're going to be tough. We're going to put some points on the board, no doubt about it."

The team is also anxious to debut in a new league. The Storm will play in the Central Carolina Football League this season, after competing in the Mason Dixon Football League since the team debuted as the Lynchburg Storm in 1993.

The CCFL is a 15-team league with a 12-game regular season ending Sept. 25 before a 12-team playoff determines the league champion.

"The CCFL is supposedly a lot tougher than the MDFL," Hairston said. "But, team-wise, I think we match up pretty well. It's not in me to say that I'm afraid, so I think we can be pretty good. I think we can come in and dominate, to be honest."

The team has a roster of 57 players, about half of whom are newcomers, according to offensive lineman Hugo Hughes.

The Storm will make its home debut in its Week 2 game against the Carolina Eagles on July 17 at the Smith River Sports Complex. The team has drawn hundreds of fans in the handful of games played locally in years past, and hopes to draw a crowd this season with more frequent home games at the SRSC.

"It gives Martinsville and Henry County something else to look forward to," Hairston said. "We have the Mustangs and I love those guys. ... This is something for people who don't, per se, care for baseball as much, but they go because it's something to do."

"To appreciate it, you have to see it, because we're doing what we love to do for absolutely nothing," he added, noting that Storm players are not paid employees of the team.