Ashland — After three weeks of hitting each other, the Southern Oregon University football team is happy to be heading to Butte, Mont. to face Montana Tech in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.

Ashland — After three weeks of hitting each other, the Southern Oregon University football team is happy to be heading to Butte, Mont. to face Montana Tech in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.

"The kids are ready to start hitting somebody else," SOU head football coach Steve Helminiak said. "We've got a hungry football team right now and we are excited to play Tech again."

Last year's season-opening matchup in Ashland resulted in a 32-30 Montana Tech victory. In that game SOU scored 20 fourth quarter points and unsuccessfully attempted a two-point conversion with 34 seconds to play.

"We still have a bad taste in our mouths about that game," Helminiak said. "We don't feel like we played our best game and made too many mistakes."

Montana Tech finished last year 7-4 and are picked to finish second in the Frontier Conference behind perennial national champion contender Carroll College. The Orediggers are ranked 21st in the NAIA preseason top 25.

Offensively for Montana Tech, sophomore Matt Komac is the starting quarterback after taking over at midseason. Defensively, Helminiak simply describes the Orediggers as "physical."

"They are a very well-coached team," Helminiak said. "They don't make mistakes and won't hurt themselves. That's the type of football we need to play."

The Raiders appear ready to build on a 2007 season that resulted in a 5-4 record and the program's first winning season since 2003.

The key to 2008 and the opener against Montana Tech may be the play of senior quarterback Bryan Lee-Lauduski.

Last year Lee-Lauduski, a 2008 Preseason All-Independant Team selection, threw for 2,083 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"It's no secret we are counting on him to perform," Helminiak said. "He's had a great preseason. He stuck around during the summer and has really worked hard."

Lee-Lauduski has plenty of weapons to throw the ball to in seniors Darryl Price, Brandon Stout, Danny Patenaude, Brian Harding and Drew Dukeshire.

"We definitely have some people that can go out and make plays," Helminiak said.

On defense, the Raiders have melded nicely with first year defensive coordinator John Ely. After having Ely on board all Spring, the Raiders are up to speed as the opener approaches.

"A lot of the returners have stepped up and taken over the defense," Helminiak said. "We've got eight returners that started all or at least some last year. That experience is huge for us."

Seniors Damario Watson and Anthony Scolamieri return to lead the troops.

Watson, a linebacker, finished third on the team in tackles with 55, including six tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks. Scolamieri, a defensive end, led the team with 11 TFL's and had 54 tackles.

Today's game will start at 6 p.m. on the West Coast and will be broadcast on 580-AM in the Rogue Valley and also on www.souraiders.com.