Semi-pro Pit Bulls take to local gridiron
National Football League? Canadian Football League? Major college football? Not here in Washington County — but if you like the game and don't want to travel too far or pay too much to see it, Hillsboro's Mark Ancheta is your man.
The Washington County Pit Bulls are a semi-pro football team playing at Hillsboro's Hare Field. They compete in the Pacific Football League, which is comprised of eight teams located in Oregon and Washington, going as far north as Sumner and as far south as Medford. They have a roster of more than 40 players ranging in age from 19 to nearly 40, and vary in experience from ex-professionals, to college and high school athletes, to never having played the game in an organized fashion before.
"Our players play for a variety of reasons," said Ancheta, the Pit Bulls' owner and head coach. "Some play to continue doing something they've done for years, some play in an effort to build an athletic resume in hopes of playing in college, and others play because they never did but always wanted to.
"But all play because they love it."
Ancheta, a Hawaii native who played in high school, moved to Oregon in the 1990s and has worked for Intel as a construction coordinator for nearly two decades. He started coaching at the youth level 14 years ago and got involved with the former Portland Monarchs in 2010 with the help of the now Portland Raiders' coach and Comcast television personality Aaron Fentress.
After taking 2011 off, Ancheta got back involved in 2012, then bought the team — which had become the Portland Pit Bulls — in 2014 from outgoing owner and coach Ryan Stills. He's since rebranded the team as the Washington County Pit Bulls and is working with his board of directors to better connect with the community he's proud to represent.
"I've lived in Hillsboro for more than 17 years and have come to know that the city and surrounding cities like Forest Grove and Cornelius are proud cities," said Ancheta. "We want people to know that we're proud citizens of Washington County as well, and want to reach out to the community to become a bigger part of it."
The Pit Bulls have become members of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce and have made a strong commitment to use and support local businesses throughout Washington County.
"We go to ribbon cuttings, use local businesses for services such as laundry and printing and have talked to others like the Hops' K.L Wombacher about how to best serve our community," Ancheta said.
The team holds tryouts on a couple different occasions throughout the year. However, this past winter both tryout dates were canceled due to adverse weather conditions.
"Can you believe that? We had both dates in January and February cancelled because of snow," a chuckling Ancheta said. "We hold player safety in the highest regard, so we just couldn't move forward with it considering the conditions."
Michael Jorgensen is from Oakland, Ore., just outside Roseburg, and is on Ancheta's board of directors as well as a player on the team. The 31-year-old tight end, who actually played soccer in college, is in his fifth year playing for the Pit Bulls and revels in the experience of continuing to play a game he loves.
"I always liked football and loved playing it in high school," Jorgensen said, adding he "didn't get the opportunity to play it in college, so when this presented itself, I jumped at the chance."
Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove are well represented on the roster. Catarino Rodriguez, Cody Schutts, Luis Fernandez and Steven Izquierdo are all from the Cornelius/Forest Grove area, and Christopher DeCarlo is from Banks.
"It's great having those guys," said Ancheta. "Izquierdo is invaluable for us on defense and makes huge plays."
The team practices once a week, but does a lot of film study through a website called Hudl, which allows the coaches to mark up and post highlights to the web and send them to players to study. It cuts down on the amount of physical practice necessary for players who have jobs and lives outside of the game.
"We found through studies that guys' bodies' respond better to less physical work and more film work when dealing with part-time players," said Ancheta — which makes sense when considering the varying ages of the team.
The Pit Bulls play at Hillsboro's Hare Field and game tickets are $10 for adults, while children 14 and under are free. Concessions include water and other non-alcoholic beverages, and local businesses Mister Tacos and Kona Ice trucks are normally on site to provide food for the patrons.
"We love to see people out with their families," said Jorgensen. "We're hoping this can grow into something the community can be proud of."
The Pit Bulls next play July 8 at 6 p.m. versus the Lane County Kings at Hare Field.