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SOU tries to get on track against Bears

It may be premature to call today's Southern Oregon football game against Rocky Mountain College crucial, but it could weigh heavily on the postseason hopes of the No. 18 Raiders.

The Battlin' Bears, 0-2 this year, were the Frontier Conference's fourth-place team in 2003 and are SOU's second NAIA opponent this fall.

Any game's huge, especially when you're playing an NAIA school, Raider senior quarterback Brandon Griffith says. We kind of want to send a message. It's very important.

It will also be important for Southern Oregon to bounce back from its 32-0 shutout loss at Humboldt State last week. The Raiders (1-1) realize another loss could severely hamper any shot the team has at the NAIA playoffs because the outcomes against NAIA teams carry more clout with pollsters than those against non-NAIA teams.

I don't pay a lot of attention to them (the polls), ninth-year Raider head coach Jeff Olson says, admitting he told his team to forget about the numbers at this point. The thing that will take care of national rankings is a win on Saturday.

— Southern Oregon handily defeated Rocky Mountain two years ago in Billings, Mont., 37-14.

It's tough for any team to come off, essentially, a blowout and be positive, Griffith says. We haven't really thought about it. You have to move on.

SOU turned the ball over six times against Humboldt, including two fumbles that set up Lumberjack touchdown drives and an interception that was returned 61 yards for a score.

We know we have the talent to be a good team, Griffith says, explaining the Raiders will focus on building a running game and avoiding turnovers.

The Raiders will toil against a balanced Battlin' Bears attack that includes three second-team all-Frontier conference players. Senior all-conference wide receiver Jon Owen led the team in receiving yards last season with 635 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games.

Rocky Mountain also returns quarterback Adam Sanchez, who recorded 15 passing touchdowns and paced the team in rushing yards (350).

On defense, senior linebacker Eric Reis was an all-conference selection, notching 50 solo tackles in 2003, including 21 for losses.

Olson hopes the Raiders take a step forward today.

We've got to develop an identity and get some consistency, Olson says. We just haven't gotten into a rhythm yet.

This team, so far, appears to be a very close-knit group, and the way we've responded to last week's game, so far, has been very positive. The intensity's been excellent. It's been a very physical week of practice.

Jennifer Squires is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456.