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Valle hopeful his career hasn't yet peaked
The parking lot is filled with nondescript cars and trucks featuring more dents than flashy chrome rims.
There are no oversized locker rooms stuffed with plasma TVs and Xboxes. Just the standard-issue metal ones that fit little more than a duffle bag.
As the Pierce County Bengals enter their home field — Sumner's Sunset Chev Stadium — they're greeted by coach Ron Baines, who issues uniforms after taking roll.
Semipro football might sound closer to high school than the pros, but 2003 South Kitsap High School graduate Victor Valle hopes his work in front of sparse crowds draws attention.
Valle, 25, hadn't played for more than a year when he decided to turn out for the Bengals this year. Despite that, he hopes his ability will be enough to entice one of the state's two arenafootball2 teams — Spokane Shock and Tri-Cities Fever — or perhaps a Canadian Football League to sign him.
He said he is now healthy after battling some problems with his right hamstring earlier in the season.
Baines said that, coupled with his time away from the game, mean Valle still is getting back into shape.
“He’s just got to get his legs back under him,” he said. “He’s had some good games, but he’ll be better next year.”
If not, Valle is willing to be patient and play for Pierce County for at least another year.
“I’m committed to the Bengals and playing for the team,” he said. “If the door doesn’t open yet, I’ll be here next season.”
He has waited for his opportunity before, when he backed up arguably the best running back in South's history, Ryan Cole. Valle only started as a senior, but still rushed for 1,615 yards and 27 touchdowns. He left as the third-leading career rusher in school history.
“My South Kitsap days were fun,” Valle said. “We always ran the ball a lot and had good running backs.”
Valle signed with Central Washington University, but was little more than a special-teams player for the Wildcats. He only carried the ball eight times during his time in Ellensburg — all in 2004 — for 58 yards.
“It didn’t go as well as I planned,” Valle said. “You always think you’re going to be a starter coming out of high school, but I mostly was a special-teams player.”
Even if his resurrected football career doesn't work out, Valle doesn't have a shortage of professional options. He works with developmentally disabled adults at the Rainier School in Buckley and eventually hopes to become a police officer.
Without his position at the Rainier School, Valle might not have pursued football. Baines works at the school and when the two met and discussed football, he asked Valle to try out for the Bengals. Valle, who lives in Bonney Lake with his wife and two young children, initially was hesitant, but his joy for the game was too much to resist. He is now talking to his younger brother, Fernando, a 2004 South graduate, about joining him.
“I missed football too much,” Valle said.
Baines has seen plenty of talented running backs in his tenure. His grandson, Ronald Baines, is a running back at Central. The elder Baines also coached former University of Puget Sound standout Mike Oliphant, who played three years in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.
“I’ve seen some good running backs,” Baines said. “Victor fits right in there.”