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SOU climbs to No. 4 in NAIA rankings

ASHLAND — Another giant not named “Southern Oregon” took a spill over the weekend, allowing the Raiders to climb to No. 4 in the latest NAIA Football Top 25, released Monday by the national office.

SOU (6-0) is one of four unbeaten teams remaining and will put its 5-0 Frontier Conference record on the line Saturday at Carroll (4-1). The Saints were ranked No. 2 when they lost their season-opener, 38-35, on Sept. 6 in Ashland. The Raiders were 22nd at the time of that game and have remained behind the Saints despite moving up in the rankings every week.

The Raiders improved by one spot this week thanks to third-ranked Georgetown’s loss. Morningside (Iowa) stayed in the top spot for the fourth straight week. Rocky Mountain and Eastern Oregon were the other Frontier teams in the rankings at Nos. 15 and 20.

Another product of SOU’s 31-6 win over Montana Western on Saturday was senior linebacker Heston Altenbach becoming the Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Week, which was also announced Monday. Altenbach had eight solo tackles and four assisted, including one sack and another for a loss, as the Raiders shut out the Bulldogs for the game first 50 minutes.

He earned the same distinction following SOU’s previous game at Montana State-Northern, where he was in on 10 tackles.

With 29 solo tackles and 13 assisted, he is second on the team to fellow senior linebacker Laurence Calcagno’s 39 solo and 16 assisted.

Women’s Basketball

At La Grande, Southern Oregon University has the Cascade Conference women’s basketball team to beat for the 2014-15 season, according to the coaches.

With eight of their top-nine in minutes played back from last season’s 25-8 team, the Raiders attracted seven of 10 first-place votes in the CCC preseason coaches’ poll, which was released Monday by the league office.

SOU totaled 96 points, just ahead of defending regular-season champ Eastern Oregon (87) and College of Idaho (75). Oregon Tech, which defeated the Raiders for the CCC’s tournament championship, was picked fourth with 69 points.

The Raiders’ 12-6 mark tied them for third place in the conference in 2013, but they reached the CCC title game with an 80-62 upset at top-seeded Eastern Oregon. Winners of eight of their last 10, they were two spots in the NAIA poll short of receiving an at-large bid to the NAIA Championships.

Eastern Oregon has won the last two regular-season titles. SOU is shooting for its first since 2007-08, when it was a co-champion with the Mountaineers.

The Raiders open their season at home on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 against U.C. Merced and New Hope Christian. Both contests will tip off at 5:30 p.m.

Cross Country

At La Grande, Jared Hixon’s command of every course he’s been on this season gives reason to believe his All-American status on the track could soon be following him to cross country.

The Southern Oregon University junior reinforced it Friday at the San Francisco State Invitational, and on Monday he was voted the Cascade Conference Red Lion Men’s Runner of the Week for the first time in his career.

Hixon, a product of Palmdale, Calif., placed third overall of 172 runners, clocking out after 25:04.2 on the 8,000-meter course at Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadow. Six of the top-seven scorers belonged to the second-ranked Raiders as they all finished within 10 seconds of each other.

Hixon was also the first Raider in at the season’s first two meets. He completed the Humboldt State Invite in 25:54.9 to place third, and then was the Cascade Conference Preview’s runner-up in 25:14.

An All-American performer in the 1,500-meter race in the spring, he placed seventh at last year’s CCC Cross Country Championships and 36th at the NAIA Cross Country Championships.

SOU is off until the Oregon State Beaver Classic on Oct. 24. The CCC Championships are set for Nov. 8 in Portland.