The Douglas County Timberwolves minor league football team kicks off its spring season with a preseason game against the Idaho Phoenix at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sutherlin High School.
The Timberwolves have moved to the Pacific Northwest Football League (PFNL) this season, where they will play 11-man football.
Previously, the Timberwolves played four seasons in the National Nine-Man Football League, which folded after last year.
“Going to 11-man, everybody was pretty excited about it,” D.C. head coach Josh Nelsen said. “They were excited about going back to playing more traditional football.”
Nelsen will lead the Timberwolves as head coach and defensive coordinator after serving as the interim head coach to finish last year. He spent three years as a player for the T-Wolves and has over five years of experience playing semi-pro football.
Bill Carlen will guide the offense for the Timberwolves. The Grants Pass resident has been involved in minor league football since the late 1980s and won 13 championships as a player. He was inducted into the minor league football hall of fame in 2015.
Jerry Ryan rounds out the coaching staff as the special teams coordinator.
The 2019 season begins with the first of five home games this year for the Timberwolves. Home games will be played at Sutherlin High.
Nelsen says the Timberwolves are hopeful to improve on last year’s 1-7 record and reach the PNFL playoffs.
“I feel that we’re going to be able to compete. We’re not at the athleticism level that we’d like to have 100 percent across the board, but we’ll be able to compete,” Nelsen said.
Nelsen added that the team is taking a realistic view of the season, but has hopes to finish with at least a 5-4 record. “We’re pretty much taking this year as saying ‘we’re rebuilding going into 11-man.’ So, we’re going to take this year and see where we get.”
The Timberwolves have recruited hard during the off-season and have brought in some new players. The coaches expect to be strong along the front lines, but are still working out the details as they head into their preseason test against the Phoenix.
“We’re trying to learn who fits where best,” Nelsen said about his plans for the opener. “We seem to do really well against (ourselves) in practice. Now it’s going against somebody else.”
The roster currently sits at 28 players, ranging in age from 18 to 40s. The team features a number of former local high school players, including defensive captain Andy Reed, a Roseburg football player from 2006-09, and offensive captain Chance Wimberly, a Douglas High player in 2013.
The PNFL features teams from all over Oregon and one from Washington. The Timberwolves will make road trips to Bend, Eugene and Portland.
The eight-game regular season schedule starts March 2 at home against the Portland Nightmare and ends April 27.
Tickets for Saturday’s game are $5 for adults and free for children under 11 years old.