You could sense a couple of weeks ago, those suffocating, high heat-index days notwithstanding, that fall was arriving even if the calendar still said August.
You could tell because traffic jams were occurring in store aisles loaded with back-to-school supplies and clothes. And if you looked outdoors, you could see youth football and soccer teams practicing.
"Fall" practices in August, regardless of the sport, begin slowly with drills and fundamentals and conditioning, getting to know teammates and coaches and building toward the season.
On Saturday, four youth football organizations administered by the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks took part in what has become an annual celebration of that locally growing sport. Those groups fielded enough American division teams - those with players who have more experience - to keep play going at four fields at Rockburn Branch and Cedar Lane parks from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
All four organizations field teams that compete in various age groups - from 7 to 14 - in the Central Maryland Football and Cheer League. They are the Western Howard County Warhawks, with 456 players; the Elkridge Hurricanes (280 players); the Howard County Terps (242) and the Howard County Steelers (185), new name for the Howard County Bulldogs.
All four compete in the league along with teams from two independent county youth football groups, the Columbia Community Church Warriors and the Columbia Ravens. By day's end Saturday, the Warhawks and Terps had teams in each age-group final.
Playing was the day's focal point, but the conversation-maker definitely was Rockburn Branch Park's new synthetic turf field, the first for any public park in Central Maryland.
"Everyone wanted to play on it, and now everyone wants to know when their games will be scheduled there," said Mike Milani, the department sports supervisor who oversees those four organizations and coaches a Catonsville team in the league.- Lowell E. Sunderland