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Southern Oregon shoots for winning campaign

ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University football team has doubled its win total from last year.

Now it wants to go one better and record the program's first winning season since 2003.

The Raiders, who entered the season having lost 22 of 28 games over three campaigns, are 4-4 entering their season finale, a Homecoming game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Raider Stadium against Dixie State.

"It's a big step for our players and our program," said second-year head coach Steve Helminiak, whose first team went 2-7, including a forfeit loss to Menlo. "To go from 2-7 to 5-4 would be a step in the right direction. Being able to cap off the season with a win would be a feather in the cap, especially for our 13 seniors. They have been through some lean years and they will be responsible for helping to turn this thing around. They've worked hard, have had a great attitude and they are the reason we are in a position for a winning season."

SOU is coming off a 31-16 victory over Humboldt State and has won three of its last five games.

The Raiders face a Dixie State team that is 3-7 in its second year of football. SOU is an NAIA independent team, while Dixie State is an NCAA Division II team.

Southern Oregon defeated the Rebels last season, 18-15, in St. George, Utah.

SOU is coming off an inspired victory over Humboldt State. The Raiders scored 28 second-half points on an interception return for a touchdown by Brandon Beatty, a 94-yard kickoff return by Darrell Hutsona and two touchdown passes by Bryan Lee-Lauduski in the fourth quarter.

"A big win for us," said Helminiak. "It was the first step at the end of the season to earn a winning record. Our guys knew how important it was to win, and we played hard the entire evening. Even though we were tied at the half, I thought we had battled hard and we finally got some breaks in the second half and were rewarded in the end with a win."

Humboldt State is one of three common opponents for the Raiders and Dixie State. The others are Western Oregon and Azusa Pacific.

SOU defeated Azusa, 14-13, and Humboldt. It lost 37-13 to Western Oregon.

Dixie State played Humboldt twice, winning 17-10 at home and losing 30-22 on the road. It also fell 30-20 to Azusa and 31-7 to Western Oregon.

"Dixie is a competitive football team," said Helminiak. "They have played most teams on their schedule really tough. They're big up front, on both sides of the ball, a very physical team. I think we match up better in the skill positions with them than with other teams we have faced. If it holds well, it should be an offensive explosion."