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OFL provides opportunity to keep on playing

Caters to players not quite ready to hang it up

Brent Maxey thought he had played the final football game of his career in the fall of 1998.

The defensive lineman had a steady if unspectacular career at Sandy High School near Portland and then at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.

Although he loved the game, Maxey wasn't talented enough to make it professionally.

With a communications degree in hand, it was time for the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder to enter the real world and get a real job.

But then along came the Oregon Football League.

Launched in 1998, the amateur league features four teams in Southern Oregon: the Rogue Warriors of Medford, the Douglas Outlaws of Roseburg, the Klamath Falls Crusaders and the Grants Pass Marauders.

This season's final games are set for Saturday at Klamath Union High School's Modoc Field in Klamath Falls. The Outlaws meet the Marauders at — p.m. and the Warriors take on the Crusaders in the league championship game at 7.

Win, lose or draw, Maxey is thrilled to keep putting on a uniform, chasing down quarterbacks, knocking down running backs and exchanging forearm shivers in the trenches.

Football is a fun game and just being able to compete is what it's all about,?? Maxey, 24, says. It's a step down from college because a lot of guys aren't in the best of shape and all anyone needs to play is the ($150) entry fee.

But football is football. Running, blocking, tackling — the fundamentals of the game don't change.

The Warriors, 6-2 in league play and 6-3 overall, will be shooting for their third straight OFL championship. Only the foolhardy would bet against them, although a few of their players will miss the game in order to attend the wedding of wide receiver Dave Douglas.

The reality of this league is that some guys can't make every game, says Warriors manager Jim Haynes, who helped found the OFL. Football isn't their real job and they have other things going on in their lives. But the turnout is high. We usually have 35 to 40 guys show up for our games.

The Warriors best player is tailback Tommy Seldon, a 32-year-old California native whose running style reminds teammates of Barry Sanders.

He's one of the most amazing running backs I've seen — he can juke out all 11 guys on the other team on one play, Maxey says. We also have an awesome offenisve line. The combination of those guys and Tommy makes for a real good running game.

The OFL patterns itself after the Northwest Football League, a 10-team circuit based in Portland and southern Washington

Players are charged $150 to participate in nine or 10 games. Six college certified officials work each contest Admission is $5 for adults with kids under 12 admitted free.

Each team is allowed to dress down 40 players, with eight others in reserve.

Because equipment is costly — — one set of shoulder pads, helmet and uniform runs about $250 — it is passed out before each game and collected afterwards.

Crowds in Southern Oregon run between 100 and 200. Most fans are relatives or friends of the participants, although diehard gridiron enthusiasts are beginning to show up as word of the league gets out.

A lot of people still don't know anything it, Haynes says. The response from the media hasn't been the best, but we keep plugging away.??

The OFL's biggest obstacle, Haynes says, is finding fields to play on. Phoenix High and Cascade Christian are the only schools that have allowed the league to use their venues this season, he says.

Most of the players are in their 20s and 30s. The oldest player in the league is 46-year-old Mike Matiaco of Grants Pass, while the youngest is 18-year-old Kyle Kennedy, the Warriors? kicker who graduated from Phoenix High last week.

The not-for-profit league hopes to expand to six teams next season. Practice begins in April.

We?ll have a meeting in a couple weeks and discuss what the objectives will be for next year, Haynes says. We're much more organized than we were when we started and we do things professionally. But there's always things you can do better.??