Coming from all walks of life – and wearing socks of many colors – Waitsburg Elite players carry the shadowy ghosts of new glory days as they take the field for a game against Idaho.
Photo by Jeff Horner.
For Jeff Knowles, playing football is about camaraderie The 27-year-old co-owner of the minor league Waitsburg Elite said he loves spending his Saturdays on the field.
Holding regular lives Monday through Friday and ranging in age from 19 to 51, football lives on for this Elite group.
“I just look forward to the adrenaline every Saturday, and the camaraderie of getting a great group of guys,” he said. “I feel like it’s kind of like the camaraderie of military men, when you’re taking risks together and fighting together.”
Knowles founded the team earlier this year along with co-owner George Martinez, 28. Both men had previously played for the Hermiston Hurricanes, formerly known as the Blue Mountain Stars. Martinez said he saw an opportunity to start a team a bit closer to home after learning from his experience as a player in Hermiston.
The Elite is mostly composed of former football players--guys who played in high school or college. While the average player is in his late 20s, the team has many older members, including one man in his early 50s.
Most players have full time jobs, families and other responsibilities that keep them busy throughout the week, but come Saturday, they’re out on the field, doing something they love.
“It’s a weekend warrior-type thing,” said Martinez.
Because of the players’ other commitments, practice only happens one weeknight each week. This can make it challenging for everyone to stay in shape, and has led to some problems with injuries this season. Currently, of the team’s roster of 37, six are out with injuries.
Martinez said setbacks like this are to be expected with a new team. Now about halfway through the first season, with a 2-1 record, the team is hoping to build its presence for next year by getting more involved in the community and improving marketing.
Even now, only three games in, Knowles said the support from fans has been incredible.
“The first week was amazing,” he said. “The second week, we had hail and sleet happening. I was amazed by the number of people who came out.”
The Elite play a seven-game slate this season against teams from around the Inland Northwest, including teams from Idaho, Okanogan, Spokane, Wenatchee, Tri-Cities and Snohomish.
The Elite has two more home games, which will be played May 11 and 18 at Waitsburg High School at 6 p.m. Tickets can be bought at the game for $8, or online at waitsburgelite.com/store for $6.