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SOU offense puts on a show

ASHLAND — Long bombs? Check. Dazzling runs? Check. Big plays on special teams? Check.

Defense? Nope.

The Austin Dodge-led White team pulverized the Black team 45-0 in a offense-dominated Southern Oregon University spring football game Friday at a half-filled Raider Stadium.

Playing under a steady drizzle, the White team, stacked with starters like Dodge, the sophomore-to-be quarterback, receivers Patrick Donahue, Mike Olson and Cole McKenzie and running back Manny Barragan, scored on four of its first five possessions, including Dodge's 19-yard touchdown hookup with Donahue with 19 seconds to go in the first half that made it 24-0.

Donahue then returned the opening kickoff of the second half 89 yards to paydirt to give the White team a 31-0 cushion.

The White team added touchdowns on Heston Altenbach's 10-yard return of Daniel Breaux's punt block, and Barragan's 88-yard touchdown run that began as a halfback option pass and evolved into an end zone escape before the senior-to-be somehow eluded a host of tacklers and a surefire safety to squirt out of danger and down the sideline.

Dodge completed 11 of 15 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns to cement his status as the Raiders' starter, and Barragan ran for 153 yards and two scores.

"I was pleased with both sides of the ball with that No. 1 unit," said Southern Oregon head coach Craig Howard, adding that the White team was loaded with players who are expected to start next fall. "You want to end spring drill with confidence on both sides of the ball."

The starting offense certainly has plenty to feel confident about after Friday's shellacking, which included a 60-yard bomb from Dodge to McKenzie on the White team's first play from scrimmage, and an 11-play touchdown drive on its next possession bolstered by a fourth-down conversion.

"I feel like we're light-years beyond where we were at even during the season last year," Dodge said. "Everyone's got it down, everyone knows their role and we're excelling as a team, offense and defense."

Just as Howard promised, the Raiders picked up the pace on offense. They didn't huddle between plays last season, either, but were noticeably quicker to the line of scrimmage Friday, a tactic they hope will catch opponents off-guard next fall. To help speed up the play-calling, the Raiders are using giant cards divided into four quadrants, each with a picture — a system made famous by the Oregon Ducks.

"We've been faster all spring than we were last year, but a lot of that is because the kids now know what we expect," said SOU offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht. "We're not teaching offensive plays, per say. They know the offense now because they've been in the system a little bit longer, so now we can focus on tempo and really accelerate the pace."

They didn't need to out-pace the defense on the first touchdown. After the White team took over following a punt on its own 40-yard line, Dodge dropped back and fired a strike to McKenzie, who had a step on cornerback Colton Grimwood.

Following another punt by the Black team, the White team took over at its own 10-yard line and three plays later was already at midfield following three straight pass plays, including a 19-yard swing pass to Barragan. Dodge completed three more passes on the drive, which Barragan capped with a 6-yard plunge to make it 14-0.

On its next possession, the White team finally stalled, but not before driving 56 yards on 12 plays to get to the Black 14-yard line. Dodge threw high to Olson on third-and-10, and the White team settled for Colin Amsler's 31-yard field goal.

That proved one of the few stops of the day for the Black team, which had no answer for Dodge and company.

"Now we have some momentum going into the fall," Howard said.