SOU No. 2 in final NAIA coaches' poll
Although the Southern Oregon University football team couldn't make it back-to-back titles at Saturday's NAIA Championship game in Daytona Beach, Fla., the Raiders' pair of playoff upsets were proof enough that they were deserving of the No. 2 ranking in the final NAIA Top 25 coaches' poll.
Released Monday by the national office, the final rankings had Marian (Ind.) as the obvious consensus No. 1 team after its 31-14 win in the title game. The Knights, who finished the season on a nine-game win streak to go 12-2, had shared the top spot with SOU in the preseason poll and were No. 6 going into the postseason.
Following second-ranked SOU was No. 3 Morningside (Iowa) — which the Raiders knocked off in the semifinals, 30-27, when the Mustangs were ranked No. 1 — fourth-ranked Saint Francis (Ind.), No. 5 Baker (Kan.), which the Raiders eliminated in the quarterfinals, 24-19, when the Wildcats were No. 2, and No. 6 Grand View (Iowa).
In 2014, SOU became the first lowest-ranked team (No. 8) going into the playoffs to win a title since the NAIA's two divisions merged in 1997. They had started the season 22nd. Prior to the season, SOU's best ever ranking was No. 2 — for a single week during the 2002 campaign.
This season, the Raiders lost their opener at Carroll to drop to No. 4 in the first poll of the regular season. They followed up with seven consecutive wins, working their way back to No. 1 for two weeks before a 21-17 loss to Montana Tech in the penultimate game of the regular season dropped them to eighth. A 48-37 win in the regular-season finale moved them up one spot going into the NAIA Championship Series.
The Raiders ended up with six wins over opponents who were ranked at the time of their meetings, all but one of which were decided by one score: No. 13 Eastern Oregon (38-35), No. 17 Montana Western (37-30, OT), No. 11 Carroll (28-27, OT), No. 10 Kansas Wesleyan (52-8), No. 2 Baker (24-19) and No. 1 Morningside (30-27).
This marks the 11th time SOU has finished in the top-25 since the inception of the NAIA ratings system in the late 1970s.
At Corvallis, senior guard Walker Shibley hit four 3-pointers and scored 18 points in Ashland’s 67-58 loss to Crescent Valley in the opening day of the two-day tournament Monday at Crescent Valley High School.
Peyton Fuller and Malik Pippa added 11 points apiece for the Grizzlies (3-3), who hit eight treys but struggled from the free throw line (9-for-21).
Senior guard Joe Casey led the Raiders (4-2) with 24 points.
CRESCENT VALLEY (67) – Casey 24, Meade 0, Phillips Houston 6, Little 5, Hart 6, Sandvig 0, Adams 0, Van Tamelen 7, Killen 2, Lind 0, Gray 6, Hansen 0, Hufanga 11. Totals: 25 14-21 67.
ASHLAND (58) – Hasskamp 8, Jones 5, Shibley 18, Fuller 11, Ellis 5, Pipa 11, Graham 0, Nagareda 0, Elshalom 0. Totals: 20 9-21 58.
Crescent Valley 19 15 20 13 – 67
Ashland 18 7 15 18 – 58
3-point goals – Crescent Valley 3 (Casey 2, Van Tamelen 1), Ashland 8 (Hasskamp 1, Shibley 4, Fuller 3, Pippa 1). Fouled out – Shibley.