Semi-pro but totally serious about football

By BEN MCCARTY

News staff writer

January 20, 2007

From a distance nothing sets them apart. Just a half-dozen guys getting together for a Saturday morning football game.

On closer examination, however, it becomes clear that these six guys are not at the Hood River Middle School field just for a pickup game. Especially on a day were the temperature is hovering slightly north of 20 degrees, and the field is frozen over. They continue running the same two plays over and over: option run and option pass. “Option left on two on two!”

The quarterback’s cadence echoes across the glassy snow. An offensive lineman jumps early, and the play stops as Paul Brown steps in to find out went wrong. The six players are at the field to practice and run a tryout for the Columbia River Coyotes, a semi-pro football team in the Oregon Football League.

The team did not get quite the turnout it had hoped for: only one new player, and he was not even from Hood River, but looking around at the frozen field and a postcard-esque Mount Hood in the distance, Director Mike Knopf and several of the players figured that the temperature, and the prospect of hitting the slopes on a clear day was a bit more appealing than running option drills for even the hardiest jock.

There are no sob stories here. No tales of “football has given me a second chance at life.” Just guys who want to be a part of a team and play the game they love.

“This gives a chance for guys to play football,” Michael Walker said. “Some guys just want to put on pads and hit somebody again.”

The Coyotes were founded five years ago, with Knopf as the coach/director and “team steward,” this year he has given up the coaching reigns to Brown, an assistant coach at The Dalles-Wahtonka, who recently retired from the semi-pro game after a seven-year career.

The team plays its home games at The Dalles-Wahtonka High School field, and with a roster typically around 35 players, has faced teams with more than twice the manpower.

The desire to see the team grow, and hopefully contend for a league title, have led Knopf to reach out to the surrounding Gorge area, in the hope of finding more players and building a wider base of support for the team, which costs around $15,000 to field annually.

“My goal is to take in the whole Gorge area, not just The Dalles,” Brown said.

For veteran players like Antwoine Montoya, it gives him a chance to get in on the action, instead of just watching it on television or from the stands.

“I’m living a dream,” Montoya said. “What else are you going to do on a Saturday morning?”

Most of the players have no higher ambitions in football beyond getting to put on the Coyotes gear every Saturday, although Brown said that Arena Football League teams do occasionally scout out top semi-pro players, and several players did not even play football in high school.

They range from 18-year-olds taking a year off before heading to college to grown men in their late 30s. The team’s quarterback, a scrambling lefty named Everett Deuan, even brought his young daughter along with him to practice so he could keep an eye on her while he runs through plays under center.

Knopf made it clear that there is no semi-commitment in semi-pro football. During the season the players will travel to Brookings, Klamath Falls, Salem, Oakland, Coos Bay and Bend, becoming weekend warriors who get Sunday to heal their bruises before heading back to their day jobs.

During the off-season many do volunteer work in the community by serving as youth mentors and volunteer football coaches, working with senior homes and chopping fire wood.

As its base of support expands, Knopf would like to move some of the team’s 5-6 home games out of The Dalles and into surrounding communities.

“Its not set in stone that The Dalles has to be the home field,” he said. “I’m trying to get everyone in the Gorge area involved.”

The Coyotes’ season begins mid-March, and Knopf is still looking for more players to fill out his rosters. He doesn’t ask recruits to bring much experience to the table, just the desire to play hard.

“They don’t have to have a lot of experience,” he said. “They just need to be willing to learn.

As the team packs it in on the practice field, a few players hustle off to their cars to warm up, a few linger to toss the football around a few more times, and a few make it clear that it doesn’t matter whether it is raining, snowing, in a heat wave or driving winds, they can’t think of anything they would rather be doing than playing football.

“We were out here before 9 when it was even colder,” Brandon Knopf said. “We just love football.”

The Coyotes practice every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at The Dalles Fitness Club. Anyone interested in signing up can either show up or call Director Mike Knopf at (541) 296-4226 for more information.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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