When Dan Knapp speaks of making the football team, he isn't referring to beating out other players for a roster spot. When he says make the football team, he means make the football team.

Knapp and Rod Anderson, dissatisfied with the Virginia Monarchs semipro squad they played for last year, decided to launch their own team, which opens the season at 7 tonight against the Virginia Beach-based Bay Neptunes at Stonewall Jackson High School.

And to show they mean business in making a fresh start--three Monarchs teammates joined the departure--the deserters call their team the Virginia Mutiny.

"We figured we could do it better," said Knapp, 31, a defensive end who works as a contractor in Fairfax County; co-owner Anderson, 27, a linebacker, works at the Pentagon.

The startup costs have been prohibitive. From field reservations to officials to uniforms to transportation, Knapp estimates he is $10,000 out of pocket already. His agreement with Prince William County stipulates any profit the team might turn be funneled to county youth programs.

"All the things you don't think of really add up," Knapp said. "It's just like starting an expansion team in the NFL, just not on that scale. I'll consider myself very lucky if we break even. But we do it because we love it."

The Mutiny, with 40 players ranging in age from 22 to 38, are trying to establish the franchise with extensive community involvement, but Knapp is finding even volunteerism can be an uphill climb. He has had trouble assuring some citizens a free minicamp the Mutiny is involved with in Fairfax County is actually free. Gratis status raises eyebrows.

"It's not something to make money on, and it's been kind of tough convincing people of that," Knapp said. "It's a cynical world we live in."

Tickets to Mutiny games are $6 for adults, $3 for ages 12-18 and free for children younger than 12. Any youth who shows up wearing clothing involving any sort of youth activity--"from a football jersey to a Girl Scout uniform to a T-shirt with 'Chess Club' on it," Knapp said--is admitted free.

There are several former Prince William County high school players on the team, including quarterback Stephen Moss, from Manassas Park. At 22, Moss is one of the younger team members. Three linemen weigh more than 300 pounds.

"But the guys we'll be playing against are all big, too," said Mutiny Coach Gerald Fairfax, 53, a former Greater Manassas Football League youth coach and ex-semipro assistant, including with the Monarchs.

Fairfax said the team's goal is to make the Mason-Dixon Football League playoffs by its second year and win the division championship by 2001.

The biggest game of the season might not even be on the schedule yet. There is talk of a Monarchs-Mutiny game, a sort of Prince William County championship, for this fall after each squad has finished its season. The teams don't play in the same league.

"It's probably a game that should happen," Knapp said. "Two local teams to get a little rivalry going."

Monarchs Begin Fast

The Mutiny have a long way to go to catch up to the Monarchs, off to a 4-0 start headed into their road game tonight against the Richmond Hornets.

In a 23-13 victory over Lynchburg last week, Walt Willis kicked three field goals, and the Monarchs defense continued to dominate. The team has accumulated 62 sacks, 12 by linebacker Marco White. James Dixon has 11, and Kenny Conrad has 10.