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Raiders set to shoot down 'Cats

SOU must win Homecoming game, rest of schedule to keep — six-season win streak

Seeing is believing, except when it comes to the 'Fly' — offense.

Southern Oregon head coach Jeff Olson hopes the Raider — defense takes that approach Saturday, when Willamette brings its deceptive — method of attack to Raider Stadium.

"Hopefully it'll rain the whole day, and if it doesn't — we'll turn the sprinklers on," cracked Olson, when asked how to stop the — 'Fly.' "I don't think a lot of these guys have seen it, but this is what — this team does. It's been their bread and butter — and they run it exceptionally — well."

The Raiders' defense knows what it's like to play against — a highly successful, NCAA Division III offense. Last week, SOU (3-4) lost — 54-34 at Linfield, owners of the top offense in the country at that level.

But while the Wildcats do most of their damage through — the air, this week's Raider opponent hurts teams on the ground.

The Bearcats (4-2) are averaging 389 yards of total offense — and 29.5 points per game this season. Most of those yards - 284 to be — exact - have come via the rushing game. Willamette uses speed motion by — flankers and/or wing backs, multiple fake handoffs and other unconventional — tactics to confuse the defense.

"It's assignment football," Olson said. "Certain kids — are assigned to certain responsibilities. The success we've had against — them in past years is because we've played assignment football and played — it well."

Junior quarterback Cameron Walton leads what has become — a four-pronged Bearcat attack. Flankers Steve Wilbon (51 carries, 309 — yards), Ryan Hernandez (24-295) and running back Calvin Keyser-Allen (54-260) — get most of the glory, and Walton has completed 38 of 71 passes for 555 — yards.

Defensively, Willamette will probably come out with four — down linemen and put eight in the box in an effort to take away the run. — It's worked fine so far. The Bearcats lead the six-team conference in — scoring defense (19.8), total defense (303.2), rushing defense (107.8) — and quarterback sacks (16).

"They're a very, very physical team up front," Olson said. — "They have not played Linfield yet, but they're an outstanding football — team. They really seem to rely on their front eight to control the line — of scrimmage and so far they've done a nice job with it."

Megdy Khoury leads Willamette with 48 tackles.

While SOU is coming off a loss, it's also fresh off its — best offensive performance of the season. In response, Olson is taking — the if-its-not-broke-don't-fix-it approach. That means he'll start senior — quarterback Brandon Griffith, who burned Linfield early and often before — finishing with a career-best 311 yards passing.

Olson said Griffith's understudy, redshirt freshman Boomer — Marshall, will probably get some playing time against Willamette, but — when and how much will depend on how the game progresses.

Regardless of who's throwing the ball, there's a good — chance SOU receiver Bobby Poeltl will be on the other end of many of those — passes. Quietly, Poeltl is putting together one of the best seasons ever — for a Raider wideout. The 5-foot-9 senior ranks fourth in the NAIA for — receptions per game (6.6) and third for per-game receiving yardage (98.3). — He's also 11 catches and 151 yards away from breaking into SOU's single-season — top-five in both categories.

"He knew coming in that he was going to be our go-to guy — in our offense and that's the way it's been and he's responded to the — challenge," Olson said.

The first meeting between the two northwest small colleges — since 2001 is important for both teams, but for different reasons. The — Raiders must win their final two games to set a new program record for — consecutive winning seasons (six). The Bearcats, currently riding a three-game — winning streak, are in contention for a playoff berth after getting off — to a 2-0 start in the Northwest Conference.

The Raiders had high hopes this season, but with their — playoff hopes long gone, Olson said it's time to focus on a new goal.

"You're going to have adversity throughout life and things — don't always go the way you want them to," he said. "This season has not — been going the way we had hoped, but we have one goal left that we can — accomplish and that's getting a winning season out of this.

"We have a wonderful group of seniors that I want to see — finish on top."