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Raiders yearn for big finish

ASHLAND -- Southern Oregon University football coach Jeff Olson is stillhoping to guide the Raiders into the NAIA national playoffs.

The Raiders need to win their remaining two games to forge a tie forfirst place in the Columbia Football Association. It might also be enoughfor an at-large berth in the national playoffs.

That's the best we can do at this point, and that's our objective,says Olson. I'm optimistic about our chances.

SOU (4-3, 2-1 CFA) is host to Humboldt State (1-7) at — p.m. Saturdayat Raider Stadium. Last week, the Raiders beat Simon Fraser 35-28. SouthernOregon trails front-running Western Oregon (3-1) by one-half game.

SOU concludes the regular season Nov. 15 at Western Washington.

An SOU win Saturday would clinch a winning season.

I want to get this winning season thing assured in this game,says Olson, who is finishing his second season as Southern Oregon's interimhead coach. He will be replaced by Ashland High coach Jim Nagel next season.

Olson will be assistant head coach under Nagel.

The thing I really want badly is for our 19 seniors to win theirfinal home game, says Olson. Hopefully, I will be back to coachhere in future years. But this is the last time these 19 seniors will playa game on this field.

Olson has a 8-8 record in his stint.

I feel good about my two years here as coach, says Olson.I have no regrets.

When I talked to our kids for the first time as head coach twoyears ago, I told them there were two words I wanted to instill in our program.They are `class' and `respect.' I believe we have played with class andearned the respect of our opponents and fans for doing it.

Southern Oregon tailback Griff Yates will continue his attempt to wina national rushing championship against Humboldt State. Yates has alreadybroken SOU's regular-season record with 1,187 yards on 163 carries throughseven games. He has surpassed Casey Jackson's record of 1,083 yards (innine games) last year.

Jackson and Yates will both start in the backfield against Humboldt State.Each ran for more than 100 yards in the win over Simon Fraser. Yates rushedfor 166 yards on 20 carries and Jackson 133 yards on 19 carries.

They are a great combination to have on the field together,says Olson. They both are at full strength and they both block verywell for each other.

Junior Matt Geske will make his second consecutive start for the Raidersat quarterback. Against Simon Fraser, he completed 10 of 21 passes for 135yards, including a 63-yard touchdown pass to Mike Long in the fourth quarter.

Geske is SOU's third starting quarterback this season. Freshman Dan Waltersstarted the Raiders' first two games and freshman Dan Woodward of EaglePoint started the next five.

Humboldt State coach Fred Whitmire and offensive coordinator Mike Mitchelllike to use a wide-open offense, says Olson.

They scored touchdowns on a reverse and pass, and on a halfbackpass last week, says Olson. At halftime, they were leading WesternOregon, the team that leads our league, 13-10.

I think their record is deceiving, says Olson. Theyare capable of exploding on offense.

Southern Oregon free safety Jenner Yriate will be among those tryingto prevent that. He leads the CFA in interceptions with five and ranks seventhin the nation.

Today'sSports Index,