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Raider spring game to be played Saturday

ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University will showcase the old and the new on Saturday in the eighth annual Red & Black spring football scrimmage at Raider Stadium. The event is scheduled to begin at noon and is free of charge.

The scrimmage marks the 16th and final spring practice for the Raiders and head coach Steve Helminiak, who is entering his third season guiding SOU.

"I think throughout the entire spring our focus is to find out which guys that were contributors a year ago could possibly become starters and which young guys could step up and become contributors," Helminiak said. "We get a chance to see who will separate themselves in terms of the depth chart come this fall."

The spring game will be an hour-and-a-half long, controlled scrimmage. The Red Team will features the first string offense and second-string defense. The Black Team is comprised of the first-string defense and the second-team offense.

"We are a lot further ahead than the past at this point in time," said Helminiak. "The offense has been pretty consistent and defense, there's some continuity there.

"This is the most depth we've had with guys trying to earn a job."

SOU added a new defensive coordinator in John Ely in March to lead a unit that returns seven starters.

Offensively, the Raiders also bring back seven starters, including quarterback Brian Lee-Lauduski and running back Marlon Rosales.

"I am excited about the weapons we have on the offensive side of the ball," Helminiak said. "We have playmakers at quarterback, receiver, running back and tight end."

One area Helminiak hopes to see improvement this season is in the running game, which doesn't get any help this season with the loss of several offensive linemen to graduation.

Three redshirt freshmen on the line, Derek Short (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), Ryan Watson (6-4, 280) and Zach Urrutia (6-2, 295), could find more time available this season depending on their performance in the scrimmage and when fall camp starts.

"I'm interested in seeing how a couple of the young offensive linemen that redshirted a year ago for us will step up," said Helminiak.

SOU also returns two key special teams' weapons in senior kicker Corey O'Neill and senior punter Steve Palmer.

The Raiders were also hit hard by graduation at wide receiver and linebacker.

SOU must replace receivers Tim Greenidge and Kevin Holtzman and linebackers Brandon Beatty and James Williams.

"We have some kids that are ready to step in and fill those spots," Helminiak said.

Some of the top newcomers this season are wide receiver transfers Brandon Stout (Central Washington) and Harvey Taylor (Sacramento State) and freshman middle linebacker Joey Searson and Popo Kilioni.

Some local players hoping to make waves include freshman offensive lineman Jake Ayala of Cascade Christian, Anthony Timmerman and Ryan Baxter of Crater High and Joe Cornett of Hidden Valley.

The Raiders went 5-4 a year ago to achieve their first winning season since 2003.

SOU opens fall camp for the 2008 campaign on Aug. 8 and begins the season with its first game at Montana Tech in Butte, Mont., on Aug. 28.

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail kgoff@mailtribune.com

Raider spring game to be played Saturday