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Raiders go with Helminiak

Southern Oregon University is giving a young coach from the Midwest his first big break. Now, it&

s up to Steven to return the favor by getting the Raiders back to the playoffs.

, 38, the former offensive coordinator at Rockford College of Illinois, has been hired as Southern Oregon&

s next head football coach, SOU athletic director Dennis Francois said this morning. The announcement ends a search that began in November with over 100 applicants.

It will be &

s first head coaching job after 11 years as an assistant, including five as an offensive coordinator. He replaces Jeff Olson, who resigned after the 2004 season to become the defensive coordinator at North Medford High. Olson&

s now the head coach there. Shay McClure, SOU&

s interim head coach during the &

05 season, returns to his post as the team&

s defensive coordinator.

&

I&

m excited and I think it&

s a great opportunity,&

said in a phone interview. &

I know (the Raiders) have a strong history. They&

ve had a little turmoil in the last year and a half with the coaching change, but I know that it&

s an exciting place to coach. It&

s a great place for me and I&

m looking forward to the challenge.&

has been at Rockford College for the past two years. Before that, he had the same job at Loras College of Iowa for three years, with a five-year stint as a print consultant sandwiched in between. also spent seven years as the offensive line coach at Loras, where he earned a Bachelor&

s degree in business management in &

91 and a Masters in physical education with an emphasis in athletic administration in &

95.

Rockford and Loras are both NCAA Division III schools, while SOU competes at the NAIA level.

At Rockford, choreographed an explosive offense that averaged 35 points and 374 yards per game. The Regents did most of their damage on the ground, averaging 196 rushing yards. According to his resume, &

s offenses also generated a quarterback who ranked 12th nationally for passing efficiency, a running back who ranked 21st nationally and a rushing offense that ranked 15th in the nation.

&

Football is football,&

said. &

You hear about west coast stuff and I&

m a Midwest guy, but it&

s blocking and tackling and outscoring your opponent. You&

ve got to score to win and it still comes down to the fundamentals.&

Raider offensive coordinator Matt Sayre said that offensive philosophy fits right in with his own.

&

I just spent about 45 minutes with him on the phone and it&

s like talking into an echo chamber because his views of offense and mine are practically the same,&

Sayre said. &

He&

s all about the running game and he wants a big tailback that carries the ball 25 to 30 times a game &

outside zone (blocking), inside zone, all the same stuff that I like to do.&

Sayre added that he&

s willing to step aside and coach the quarterbacks &

or whatever else he&

s asked to do &

if decides to take over the offense.

The Raiders finished 1-9 last season and are 9-20 since advancing to the 2002 national quarterfinals.

, who was offered the job last Friday and accepted it Saturday, said he will arrive in Ashland early next week.

&

It&

s important for me to get there as quickly as I can to show the kids that are there that it&

s a priority for me to be in town and start molding the program according to my vision and philosophy,&

he said.

was named one of two finalists for the job on Jan. 2 and visited SOU for an extended interview session the next day. The other finalist, longtime University of Redlands, Calif., head coach Mike Maynard, took himself out of the running last week for personal reasons.

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 3020 or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com.