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Pierce County Bengals keeps dreams alive

The Pierce County Bengals’ season will kick off in late April. Photo credit: Pierce County Bengals

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For guys still in the military, playing football for the Pierce County Bengals is simply a chance to continue to play football.

"It's for the love of the game," said Ron Baines, the Bengals longtime coach.

Baines points out another reason for turning out. The dream of playing college football. Every year, a couple of players from the Bengals, an amateur team that plays in the Western Washington Football Alliance (WWFA), moves on to play college football somewhere.

Each year, of the 55 players on the Bengals' roster, there are about seven players from the military. Playing for the Bengals, a tackle, a wide receiver or a running back still serving in the military can prove that they've still got what it takes.

"It's a way of keeping their dream alive," Baines said.

This month, coaches of the 18-team WWFA will meet to set the season schedule that starts in late April. Sign ups for the Bengals begin at the end of January. All registration is done online at Call the Bengals at 253.446.8984 with any questions.

During the season, practices will be Thursdays and Fridays and games are played on Saturdays. The Bengals practice at the Star Center, which is the old Mount Tahoma High School field on 66th Street in Tacoma.

"We're always looking for new players," Baines said.

Over the years, players on the Bengals teams with a military background have had a positive impact, helping the team win. Baines said the door is wide open for military to turnout.

"They definitely come in and impact the team by bringing their talent and their skill and doing what it takes to bring success to the team," said Rhonda Baines, the team's GM and the daughter of Ron Baines. "In the event they have duty or their jobs take them away from the field, we still have a good group of guys who can cover for them."

The chance of missing a game or a practice because of an assignment isn't a deterrent.

"Because they are involved in a family-oriented organization, we always band together and do what it takes to win games," Rhonda Baines said.

Over the years, Ron Baines has appreciated the impact players with a military background have had on the Bengals team. They've always been an inspiration to others.

"They come in and they're well disciplined and generally in top shape," Baines said. "Never have to give them any directions. And it's always, ‘Yes sir.' I think they give leadership and respect. They show a lot of respect."

Baines, a 1965 graduate from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, has a longtime commitment to the game himself. He has a 45-year connection with the Bengals. After being drafted and playing briefly for the Buffalo Bills, Baines played wide receiver for the Bengals from 1972 to 1980, earning league MVP awards five straight years.

Later, Baines played quarterback for the Auburn Panthers from 1984-86, acting as a player/coach.

Besides his love for the game, Baines has another reason to keep coming back year after year to coach the Bengals. He sees coaching as a way to help shape lives.

“I want to help these kids,” Baines said. “I want to teach them not only how to play well but to teach them responsibilities. Make them a better person for their family, help them to become a whole person. Teach them responsibility, too.”

For Baines, the Pierce County Bengals are a family affair. His daughter, Rhonda Baines, has been the team’s general manager for the past five years. She takes care of much of the business side.

“I started out as a cheerleader, then I took over as the general manager about five years ago,” Rhonda said.

She shares the commitment her dad has for the Bengals.

“He’s very loyal to the team,” Rhonda said.

Rhonda Baines tentatively sets the start of practice for the first Thursday in February. To cover stadium rent and ref costs, there’s a player fee of $200 and all players are required to supply their own equipment.

For players in the Olympia area there is the Thurston Mayhem coached by James King. For more information, go to, or call coach King at 253.209.1918.

The Bengals and Mayhem used to play in a winter season, but they’ve switched to a summer league because of field availability.

“We play a summer season because all the high school fields are available,” Baines said. “We always had a hard time getting the stadiums before.”

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