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Ex-South player awaits Yates' onslaught

ASHLAND -- A year ago, tailback Griff Yates terrorized Western Oregon's defense for 244 yards rushing and two touchdowns, propelling Southern Oregon to a 22-14, win.

The Wolves haven't forgotten the humility of that day.

Yates ran over us, says Western Oregon inside linebacker Jim Burnett, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound redshirt freshman from South Medford.

We know we have to stop Yates to win. I guarantee we'll be ready for him this time.

Yates continues to be bothered by a chipped vertebrae but expects to start at 5 p.m. today in Monmouth.

Yates didn't play until the second half in a 10-7 loss at Linfield last Saturday. He was limited to 62 yards on 18 carries in the game.

The nation's leading rusher, at 198 yards per game, will be a marked man.

We'll be waiting for him, says Burnett. When he's in there, we'll know. We need to hit him hard and wrap up and not let him get away. He breaks a lot of tackles, and we can't let that happen.

It will be the Columbia Football Association opener for both teams.

We're starting the league season with a clean slate, says Southern Oregon coach Jeff Olson. It's two longtime rivals getting together, and the fur will be flying. I know our guys have had a good week of practice, and they've practiced hard after a disappointing loss last week.

Western Oregon is the defending league champion, and they are playing with a lot of confidence. We know we'll have our hands full.

Burnett splits time with Dominic Fredrickson, who will start at middle linebacker.

I started the Linfield game, and I've played a lot in all the games, says Burnett. I'm looking forward to playing against Southern Oregon. I know a few of their players, and I thought about going there.

Western Oregon is allowing an average of 94.7 yards rushing per game.

We've played well against the run all year, says Burnett. But this will be our biggest test.

The Wolves will also have to defend SOU senior tailback Casey Jackson, who has been slowed by an ankle injury. But Jackson is back at full speed, Olson says.

Casey and Griff will be back in there together as much as possible, says Olson. That will be nice to see.

Jackson and Yates will line up as split backs occasionally, and Jackson will also be used as a slotback.

I want both of them on the field as much as possible, says Olson. We need to take advantage of what both of them can do.

Western Oregon will test the Raiders' defense with sophomore running back Jason Taroli of Oregon City. Quarterback Kevin Bickler has proven to be an efficient leader for the Wolves. Bickler ranks third in the CFA in passing with 44 completions in 78 attempts for 563 yards and five touchdowns.

Taroli is No. — in the CFA in rushing behind Yates and Dan Murphy of Central Washington. Taroli has gained 427 yards on 78 carries, averaging 5.5 yards.

They have a strong offensive line for him with three players weighing over 300 pounds, Olson says.

Southern Oregon quarterback Dan Walters ranks sixth in the CFA in passing with 28 completions in 58 attempts for 329 yards and three touchdowns. He's completing 53.8 percent of his passes.

Against Linfield, Walters completed only 10 of 24 passes for 53 yards.

He's played better, says Olson. Linfield really came after him and put the heat on him.

He has to handle that better against Western because it's going to happen again. They'll come after him hard, too.