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Not-so-sweet homecoming

Former Eagle Point star Blake Cam helps Bearcats ruin festivities for SOU

ASHLAND ' Homecoming took on a little different meaning Saturday afternoon at Raider Stadium.

While Southern Oregon fans reveled in all the pomp and circumstance of their big day, the Willamette football team did the only celebrating that counted as one of the Rogue Valley's own made a triumphant return to help lead the Bearcats to a 21-10 victory.

Former Eagle Point High standout Blake Cam had six tackles, two for losses, and forced a fumble as Willamette's defense stood firm in murky field conditions to dominate the Raiders (3-5).

The 6-foot-2, 285-pound senior helped anchor a defensive line that overpowered SOU and limited the Raiders to only 12 yards of total offense in the second half.

We knew we could shut them down, said Cam, who was a first-team all-conference lineman for the Eagles and two-time state wrestling champion. Everybody just had to execute and do their job and we did that tonight. The scoreboard showed it.

— As did the final stat sheet as the lackluster Raiders finished with only 60 yards rushing on 25 carries and completed 13 of 31 passes for 118 yards and two interceptions.

We just couldn't get the ball moving, said SOU head coach Jeff Olson. We were concerned coming in that their front four on defense could create problems for us and they did. We really didn't get the running game going at all, and our success in the past has been that we have to be able to run the ball to set everything else up.

Other than a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Baker 81 seconds into the second quarter, SOU's highlight offensively actually came with very few offensive players on the field.

After Willamette quarterback Cameron Walton notched his second 6-yard touchdown run of the game to give the Bearcats (5-2) a 21-3 lead, SOU junior Chris Hill fielded the ensuing kickoff at his own 15 and raced untouched to the end zone for an 85-yard score with 11:20 to go in the fourth quarter.

We set the return up going left and I took a couple steps that way and then took it back right and everyone had perfect blocks, said Hill. I don't even think I got touched. It was nice just to be able to hit a hole and take it all the way like that.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, there weren't enough plays executed that well on a night when SOU needed a win in order to maintain hopes for a school-record sixth straight winning season.

I'm very disappointed, Olson said. We came in with high expectations, and we're struggling now, but we'll be back.

We'll see here in two weeks if we can bounce back and finish this thing on a winning note, added the ninth-year head coach, whose team has a bye before capping the season against Eastern Oregon on Nov. 6. We take a lot of pride in this. It's very disappointing to take a step backwards. I don't like this at all.

Saturday's game was played under conditions that weren't conducive to either team having success on offense. A week of rain gave rise to a soft field that didn't get any better with a constant downpour in the second half.

Maneuvering on the field at Raider Stadium was akin to filling a swimming pool with oatmeal and then trying to zigzag across it. Throw in a steady wind and temperatures in the low 50s and you've got yourself a ballgame.

This is the worst field we've played on all year, said Cam, whose Bearcats play their home games on Field Turf. It's a real change for us, but we proved we can play in the mud today.

The Raiders were able to slow Willamette's fly offense to a glide, but Walton came up huge on several third- and fourth-and-long plays by scrambling from the pocket to pick up drive-continuing first downs.

The junior rushed 16 times for 120 yards and two scores and completed 9 of 17 passes for 93 yards against a Raider defense that played much better than the 352 yards of total offense allowed suggests.

Their quarterback is a pretty talented kid, said Olson. He's a difference-maker. It was good coaching by them, too. When they felt like it was a crucial situation, they got the ball in the hands of their best player and he came through for them.

At Raider Stadium

Willamette7707'21

Southern Oregon0307'10

W ' Barker 13 run (Bicocca kick)

SOU ' FG Baker 37

W ' Walton 6 run (Bicocca kick)

W ' Walton 6 run (Bicocca kick)

SOU ' Hill 85 kickoff return (Baker kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

WilSOU

First Downs1710

Rushes-yards53-25925-60

Passing yards93118

Comp-Att-Int9-19-013-31-2

Total yards352178

Punts6-38.56-36.3

Fumbles-lost2-13-0

Penalties-yards7-467-54

INdivIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING

Willamette

' Walton 16-120, Keyser-Allen 11-52, Brock 12-34, Moran 1-16, Wilbon 5-15, Barker 3-12, Hernandez 4-8, Liepman 1-2.

Southern Oregon

' Krizman 21-56, Griffith 4-4.

PASSING

Willamette

' Walton 9-17-0 93, Liepman 0-2-0 0.

Southern Oregon

' Griffith 13-24-1 118, Marshall 0-7-1 0.

RECEIVING

Willamette

' Meyer 6-70, Liepman 1-13, Brock 1-6, Barker 1-4.

Southern Oregon

' Poeltl 6-29, Olson 2-47, Hill 1-31, Peters 1-9, Stout 1-5, Conrad 1-1, Krizman 1(-4).

Southern Oregon?s Chris Hill (7) looks for room to run on a kickoff with a little help from teammate Madison Caeser (19) as Willamette?s Stephen Shamus (98) closes in for the tackle in Saturday?s game. Hill later returned a kickoff 85 yards for SOU?s lon Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman