SILVERTON - The Portland Monarchs were undefeated in the 2010 regular season and ranked the number one team in the nation by the Minor League Football news during the post-season league playoffs.
That is no small achievement when you consider there are a total of 1,130 minor league football teams in the U.S., Monarchs co-owner and Silverton resident Heath Wharton said.
In BCS-like fashion, the top-ranking earned the Monarchs a trip to Las Vegas to play the second-ranked Glendale Bulldogs in a national semi-pro title game.
Monarch's Head Coach Aaron Fentress said his team "did not play very well," losing 44-24. The team ended the season ranked number two in the country.
Monarch players and coaches look forward to continuing their success, as they prepare to kick-off the 2011 season in which they will play all regular season home games in Silverton at Silverton High School's
McGinness Field. The Monarch's home opener is April 30.
Of the 60 players, about half played college football, many at the Division One level, and most played high school football in Oregon. Portland State is heavily represented, with eight former Vikings on the roster, including quarterback Russell Schneider and starting safeties Aaron Dickson and Andrew Fuller. There are six former Western Oregon players and three from Southern Oregon.
Both of the Monarchs' kickers played in the Pac-10. Matt Evenson handled kickoffs and did some place-kicking for the Oregon Ducks, and Juan Moreno played at UCLA.
Under Fentress, the Monarchs have been an offensive juggernaut, averaging 45 points a game.
Fentress said Schneider has been "the best quarterback in the league for the last three years," throwing for nearly 11,000 yards. In 2010, the former Portland State University backup threw for 50 touchdowns and more than 3,600 yards, averaging three TDs per game and completing 52 percent of his passes.
Schneider should have no shortage of targets to throw to this season.
"There is not a weak link on the (receivers) group," Fentress said. "So we're going to be able to run a ton of four wide receiver sets and keep guys fresh while wearing out opposing secondaries. In the past, we've used four receiver groups, but never with the amount of talent we'll be able to put on the field at one time. We have speed, size and skill, as several of our players have played in college."
A couple recent additions to the team could be impact players. Isaiah Smith from Western Oregon University is a wide receiver who averaged 18 yards per catch. Smith has gotten interest from the Arena Football League and may play there in the future, Fentress said.
Anthony Dukeshire is a Benson High School graduate who played at Weber State and Southern Oregon. Dukeshire was plagued by injury in college, but has the size and talent to have earned tryouts with two NFL teams, the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fentress said Dukeshire is a "fantastic blocker and dynamic receiver."
Another player to keep an eye on, Fentress said, is linebacker Beau Gates, who was the 2008 Oregon Football League defensive player of the year.
A linebacker to watch might be K.J. Macrae, from McNary High School in Salem, who went on to star at PSU, making honorable mention all-conference in the Big Sky.
The only Silverton resident is Wharton, who has six years experience playing minor league football and is listed as a fullback.
Wharton, who owns the team with his wife, Michelle, said ticket prices for home games are $10, but fans can purchase a season ticket to all five games for $30. Fans who bring a non-perishable food item to the gate pay $7 for admission. The food will be donated to the Silverton Area Community Aid.
Wharton said 20 percent of the net revenue from the gate and the concessions goes to Silverton High School's athletic department. An additional 30 percent of concessions net revenue goes to the Silver Fox Foundation.