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Get ready for a Heat-wave

When Tim Price clicked the stopwatch, his heart must have stopped with it. He was staring at the fastest time in history for the 40-yard dash.

— —

We've moved along quite — well, says owner Kevin Wells.

Here's a rundown of those machinations:

— — League

The AIFL, originally expected to be a — national league with franchises in, among other places, Hawaii, New — York, Maine and North Carolina, has shrunk in recent months, to the — relief of Wells.

We've organized it enough to — where we aren't spread out across the country, he says, adding — that the initial plan made our travel costs pretty expensive. That — was a big concern.

The league now is West Coast-based. There — are teams in Yakima, Wash., Nampa, Idaho, San Francisco, Bakersfield, — Calif., and Flagstaff, Ariz., with others pending in Fresno, Calif., and — Sacramento, Calif.

The league could eventually expand to the — Midwest and beyond.

— — Headquarters

The team's office is at 33 N. Central — Ave., Suite 332, in downtown Medford, where a new general manager, his — assistant and a secretary are helping Wells put things together.

The phone number is 245-0513.

The email address is: soorheat@aol.com

The Web address is: — www.southernoregonheat.com

— — Front Office

The GM is Larry Clinard, who filled the — same post for the Casper Calvary of the Indoor Football League, which — was recently bought out by the Arena Football League, says Wells.

The assistant GM is Jeff King, who also — coaches a team in Spain and is a player-coach in Germany. He specializes — in player organization and recruitment and might even play for the Heat.

— — Coaches

Head coach Al Burrell has played and — coached semipro ball in the Portland area for the past 20-plus years. He — most recently was a defensive assistant on the Portland Prowlers of the — Indoor Professional Football League and serves in the same capacity at — Lincoln High in Portland.

Offensive coordinator Chad Carlson was an — All-American receiver at Lewis & Clark College in Portland before — playing a couple of years in the Canadian Football League and later with — the Prowlers.

Defensive coordinator Tim Price is the — head coach at Jefferson High in Portland. He played his college ball at — Portland State and also played for the Prowlers.

We went out and tried to find — experience and people who are hungry and understand how the indoor — process works, says Wells. I feel very good about who we — have hired and where we're going with it.

— — Arena

Games will be played at Compton Arena at — the Jackson County Expo. The arena, which will seat 4,200, will be — dubbed the Inferno when the Heat occupies it.

On game day, beginning about 6 a.m., the — team will put down artificial turf, put up goal posts, dasher boards — around the field, seating, etc., then after the game, tear it all down — and have the arena ready for the next day's event.

The dasher boards cost $17,000, are made — of polyurethane and are reportedly safer than the conventional boards — — foam rubber-covered plywood pieces that cost twice as much.

— — Tickets

Season ticket packages, which are good — for one preseason game, one non-league game and five league games, are — $179 (180 seats available), $129 (400 seats available) and $99 (1,500 — seats available).

General admission seats are $10.

— — Cheerleaders

Though discussions only recently began, — it appears the Heat will have its own cheerleading squad — an adult — group (ages 18-33) of women from throughout Southern Oregon and Northern — California. The 18-member squad enters competitions but heretofore didn't — have a team to call its own. — Fortunately, common sense wasn't slow in coming, either.

The new defensive coordinator for the Southern Oregon Heat indoor football team waved his arms and left his finish-line post.

Hey man, this ain't 40 yards, he bellowed.

About the same time, Nate Miller was giving animated high fives, fully aware that he probably didn't run the 40 in 3.63.

My fastest is 4.6, the former Henley High of Klamath Falls player said with a sheepish grin.

It was that kind of day at South Medford High Saturday, where the very first assemblage of players for the Rogue Valley's new professional team took place.

There were some gaffes, and there were some impressive efforts as nearly 30 players, ranging from recent college players to a 42-year-old criminal defense lawyer from Ashland, who was there with his son, put their abilities on display.

Kevin Wells, the team's owner, has been busy building a front office and coaching staffs since the team's existence was announced July 1. On this day, he watched like a proud papa.

The big thing about this is that it shows it's happening, he said. It's really here.

This was the first of two open tryouts. The other will be Dec. 16. A third camp, by invitation only, will be in January and will include players from the open tryouts and others who have at least NCAA Division I experience and who have sent in profiles.

The object, said assistant general manager Jeff King, is to build a local team.

We really want local talent, he said. Some people think we're going to bring in a bunch of guys from Florida or something and that the guys from Southern Oregon University or South Medford High don't have a chance. That's not the case.

That sentiment was taken to heart by the 28 who showed up Saturday. They were put through a strength test, doing as many repetitions as possible in the bench press at 225 pounds; they were timed in the 40 and they ran several agility and speed drills around cones.

Some got scraped knees when their leg speed couldn't match their body's lean in the 40. Some got bruised tailbones when a backpeddling drill looked more like a game of musical chairs — without the chairs. Some got bruised egos when their lifts and sprints didn't produce marks that met their expectations.

Al Burrell, the head coach, oversaw the proceedings.

These guys are a little bit nervous, he said as he watched the 40-yard dash — which was moved outside the gym and set at an actual 40 yards on pavement after the initial miscalculation. You can see it in their eyes.

Miller, he of the fast 40, admitted, I was nervous all morning. I lost sleep on this.

In the real 40, Miller had two 4.7s and a 4.6. He wasn't quite as fast as Ryan Morgan, a former Hidden Valley and Southern Oregon receiver, who had three 4.5s, but he was considerably faster than Larry Parker, the lawyer.

I haven't played football on an organized team in 20 years, said Parker, of Ashland. I thought, ?If I don't do it now, I'll never do it.?

If he were to make the team, he said, it would be at a position where he didn't get hit a bunch, like quarterback or punter.

He also admitted his chances were slim to none, and slim left town ... especially with a 6.1 in the 40. I hope they want my intelligence and not my brawn.

Parker followed his 6.1 with a 6.5, but finished strong at 5.9.

Meanwhile, Burrell watched more 40s.

He encouraged Rockne DeMello to stretch out a tight hamstring and just relax, you?re too tense ... Good job, though.

He chuckled when lineman Mike Weeks, who plays semifpro ball for the Klamath Falls Crusaders, finished off a grunting, snorting, 5.9 dash with the comment, Yeah, I'll take that for a dollar!

And after Aaron Crawford ran in the high 4s but looked good doing it, Burrell told his coaches, We can get his speed down to 4.5 or 4.6. If we do that, we can use him.

Crawford, 23, played defensive back at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, Calif., and planned to resume his schooling in San Diego.

Then I fell upon this, he said. I didn't hear anything about it, then I thought, ?Wow, what an opportunity.?

Like the others, he wasn't in football shape.

Those times can come down considerably, he said. But we're waking up the muscles. Hopefully, I'll get called back.

Morgan, who graduated from Hidden Valley in 1994 and Southern Oregon in 1999, had much the same attitude. He only learned of the tryout the day before and would have preferred to be prepared, but it's not like I wasn't going to do it.

This is fun. It gives everybody a chance. You never know if you don't do it. There are some people out here who might be iffy, but you don't know if you don't give it a try.

Mike Morrell, 29, who starred at North Medford High and Linfield and has played semipro ball the past three years, is excited to see the game come to the Rogue Valley.

He hopes more former high school players in the area give it a go.

It would be fun to take basically an all-star team from here to Washington and California and Idaho and see how we stack up, he said.

That's a ways off, but this was a start.

Reach sports editor at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

Get ready for a Heat-wave