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Raiders subdue resurrected College of Idaho

ASHLAND — The ninth-ranked Southern Oregon football team got the message early Saturday at Phillips Field: College of Idaho’s resurrected football program is already a threat in the Frontier Conference.

A snappy response stopped the Yotes from being more than that, at least for now. After watching C of I trot into the end zone on its first two drives, the Raiders scored the last 21 points of the first half and then the last 28 of the game to salvage a 56-28 win, their fourth straight to start 2014.

The Raiders (3-0 Frontier) compiled a season-best 631 yards of offense behind quarterback Austin Dodge’s 30-for-42 effort, which resulted in 476 yards and five TDs without an interception.

Still, it wasn’t a picturesque performance in the Raiders’ eyes.

“I think we’re off a little bit with all of our receivers right now, in general,” said SOU offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht. “Not in regular plays but on the vertical ball. It’s what we do and we haven’t hit it yet. But we struggled through three games last year on the vertical ball, too. Then everybody hits after that. I think it’s just a matter of more timing in practice.”

Sean McShane collaborated with Dodge for two of those TDs, both in the second quarter. He snatched the first over the middle of the field and ran in, covering 22 yards, and he brought the second to the outside on a screen play before leaping over the pylon for a 17-yard score and a 21-14 advantage.

The Yotes (2-1, 1-1), who suffered their first defeat since 1977, put together two game-tying drives in the third quarter, sandwiching Matt Reztlaff’s 62-yard TD catch that he delivered down the sideline.

On C of I’s fourth play of the period, quarterback Teejay Gordon took a keeper 82 yards right up the middle. Then — after Tyler Andreason stopped an SOU drive by stealing the ball right out of tailback Melvin Mason’s hands and running it 42 yards to SOU’s 20 — Zach Garzoli’s 12-yard TD made it 28-all with 4:28 left in the third.

The Raiders responded, both with the ball and without it.

On the ensuing drive they spanned 74 yards on eight plays and scored with Dodge’s 8-yard play-action pass to Keegan Lawrence. Joseph Lealofi pounced on a fumble on C of I’s next possession, and the Raiders needed to go just 25 yards to take a 42-28 lead 30 seconds into the fourth quarter. Dylan Young took Dodge’s pass, broke a tackle and took a few steps for a 22-yard TD.

The SOU defense came through again to stop the Yotes’ rebuttal, stuffing them three straight times at the Raider 1-yard line.

“I don’t’ think any of us is at 100 percent yet,” said McShane. “We have a long way to go before we’re clicking on full cylinders.

“This win, it might have seemed pretty lopsided, but this wasn’t a good game offensively for us. Our defense really stepped it up so we’re looking forward to next week, just building on what we did today.”

Lawrence blew it open on a 50-yard burst with 4:17 left. The final score was tacked on when Daniel Breaux’s sack forced a fumble, making way for Daniel Abernethy to scoop it up and cruise in from 43 yards out.

Laurence Calcagno was SOU’s defensive rock, recording 11 solo tackles, four assisted and three for losses. Breaux was in on 11 tackles, including two for losses, while Julius Rucker was in on nine and Lealofi caused two fumbles.

C of I’s versatile offense still proved its worth. Gordon threw for 200 yards and ran 11 times for 163. His 48-yard dash for a TD was the first of the game, and Garzoli, who had 109 yards on 18 carries, registered his first TD from four yards out on the next possession.

SOU’s initial response came in the form of a 10-play, 77-yard drive that Mason finished with an 8-yard run. Mason remained explosive in the backfield with 90 yards on 12 carries, and Sean Tow rushed seven times for 47 yards in his first action of the season.

Marcus Lenhardt paced C of I’s air attack with 139 yards on eight catches, helping the Yotes amass 540 yards. Andreason finished with seven solo tackles and Cory Brady got in on nine.

Dodge’s five touchdown passes brought his career total to 115, five short of matching the NAIA record going into next Saturday’s game at Montana State-Northern.

The Raiders will be back at Raider Stadium on the refurbished Fuller Field for their Oct. 11 game against Montana Western.

SOU senior QB Austin Dodge attempts to pass to teammate Melvin Mason, over College of Idaho defender Trevor Henderson, during the game at Walter A. Phillips Field on Saturday, September 20, 2014. (Photo by: Larry Stauth, Jr.)
SOU sophomore DB Nathan Torres-Walker celebrates with teammates are a third quarter Interception, during the game against College of Idaho at Walter A. Phillips Field on Saturday, September 20, 2014. (Photo by: Larry Stauth, Jr.)