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Late field goal lifts SOU

Steve Baker atones for two missed field goals with a 38-yard game-winner in leading the fifth-ranked Raiders past Azusa Pacific

ASHLAND ' Good teams make excuses.

Great teams make plays.

Fifth-ranked Southern Oregon is still a little shy of being dubbed a great team, but the Raiders took a giant step toward that status Saturday night against 14th-ranked Azusa Pacific.

In a game of primetime plays, junior transfer placekicker Steve Baker came up with the biggest for SOU, atoning for two missed field goals in the first half with a booming 38-yard game-winner with 28 seconds to play in lifting the Raiders to a 17-14 homecoming victory.

I didn't really kick very well tonight, said Baker, but a win's a win and I'll take it no matter how we get it.

The left-footer had a 37-yard attempt sail wide left in the first quarter and a 43-yarder suffer the same fate in the second quarter.

While he surely hoped his second-half duties would only include extra-point efforts, Baker had the look of pure determination as SOU inched downfield to set up the game-winner.

In his mind, Baker had let an opportunity slip away four weeks ago when his potential game-winning field goal sailed wide, and the Raiders suffered their lone loss of the season at the hands of Linfield in overtime.

I was basically just waiting to get my chance, he said. All I could remember was that Linfield field goal and how it feels to lose. The last thing I wanted to do was lose, and I was willing to do whatever I could to help us win.

That sentiment could be attached to the Raiders, in general, as SOU (5-1) seemingly used its iron will to deny Azusa Pacific (5-1) its first-ever win over the Raiders.

Baker wouldn't have had a chance to win the game if it weren't for the hard-nosed running of Dusty McGrorty, who bulled his way to the 21-yard line before SOU coach Jeff Olson turned to Baker on fourth down.

I have all the confidence in the world in Steve that he's going to finish up for us, Olson said. He's been here before. He's not a kid, he's an experienced kicker.

Neither McGrorty nor Baker would have been on the field to accomplish their feats had it not been for an interception by Gabe Raso that gave SOU the ball on the Azusa 36 with 2:49 to play.

It was just that type of night for the Raiders, who needed the win to ensure their status as the top independent team in the NAIA.

I learned something from our kids tonight, said Olson. There's a never-say-die attitude with those guys. There wasn't a sense of panic at all.

When we needed a play, somebody stepped up and made it.

Whether it was a fourth-and-2 stand by the SOU defense that thwarted an Azusa drive at the Raiders' 25, a blocked field goal attempt by Nick Daniken or two determined drives by the SOU offense led by McGrorty, Dan Woodward and Heykel Aouriri, the Raiders simply found a way to get the job done.

There was no quit in this team, none whatsoever, said Olson.

SOU certainly had reason to hang its head on several occasions Saturday night.

In the first half, the Raiders suffered a fumble by McGrorty on their game-opening drive at the Azusa 3-yard line to go along with Baker's two missed field goals.

In the second half, SOU appeared destined to build on a 14-7 lead until Woodward got caught up trying too hard to make a play, coughing up the football while in the grasp of Azusa's Peder Moore. The quarterback then watched helplessly as Anthony Diggs returned the fumble 76 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Woodward, who engineered SOU's tying TD to make it 7-all with only 28 seconds to go in the first half, suffered another setback with four minutes to play when his pass toward Danny Negra on a fade route instead ended up in the hands of Azusa cornerback Anthony Gaynes.

I wanted to throw it out of bounds and just kind of short-armed it and left it in too much, said Woodward, who completed 16-of-32 passes for 155 yards. Usually I get those out of bounds but that one didn't go for me.

All I could think about after that was that I wanted the ball back, added Woodward, and then Raso came up with a huge pick. The game was won because of that play and how the defense really wanted it. They got us the ball back and Baker kicked the field goal to make it game, set and match.

At Raider Stadium

Azusa Pacific7070'14

Southern Oregon0773'17

AP ' Buys 5 run (Ryburn kick)

SOU ' Negra 12 pass from Woodward (Baker kick)

SOU ' McGrorty 10 run (Baker kick)

AP ' Diggs 76 fumble return (Ryburn kick)

SOU ' FG Baker 38

TEAM STATISTICS

APSOU

First Downs1724

Rushes-yards34-16642-173

Passing yards138155

Comp-Att-Int15-30-116-32-1

Total yards304328

Punts5-28.23-40.7

Fumbles-lost1-03-2

Penalties-yards7-798-72

INdivIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING

Azusa Pacific

' Buys 17-111, Gray 8-47, Farris 1-7, Hall 5-3, Lett 1-0, Winslow 2-(-2).

Southern Oregon

' McGrorty 33-139, Woodward 7-21, White 1-8, Daniken 1-5.

PASSING

Azusa Pacific

' Winslow 15-30-1 138.

Southern Oregon

' Woodward 16-32-1 155.

RECEIVING

Azusa Pacific

' Tapia 4-50, Allen 4-25, Herrera 3-30, Buys 1-11, Farris 1-9, Miller 1-8, Burgan 1-5.

Southern Oregon

' Aouriri 5-57, Negra 4-50, McGrorty 3-14, Poeltl 2-26, Zosel 1-7, Spring 1-1.

SOU?s Dusty McGrorty (25) drives ahead for extra yardage as teammate Todd Wesolowski (61) looks to block. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman