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No. 2 Raiders denied by Mountaineers in thriller

LA GRANDE — A year ago, Southern Oregon managed to storm back from 21 points down to defeat Eastern Oregon when the teams met early in the season.

Saturday night, the Raiders found themselves in a similar situation as they were down 17 points in the fourth quarter, but this time couldn’t manage the comeback.

Tanner Trosin passed for 360 yards and threw three touchdowns to Matt Retzlaff, but two-last ditch efforts by No. 2 SOU were turned away in the end zone as EOU escaped with a 45-40 win Saturday night in the season and Frontier Conference opener for both teams.

Trosin had just moments earlier hit Retzlaff for a 13-yard touchdown to pull the Raiders within five with 25 seconds to play. Julius Rucker recovered the ensuing onside kick and Retzlaff hauled in a 28-yard pass to the EOU 20.

But that’s where the drive stalled, as the Mountaineers denied SOU on two final shots at the end zone, including an impressive breakup of a pass by John Payne on a would-be touchdown by Zack Davis.

Eastern Oregon had taken as much as a 17-point lead earlier, quickly turning a 24-21 advantage to 38-21 at the 4:42 mark of the third quarter. Calvin Connors returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and A.J. Prom recovered a fumble in the end zone after Louis Macklin fumbled the ensuing kickoff.

SOU battled back, though. Trosin and Retzlaff connected for an 18-yard score early in the fourth quarter, and Sean Tow scored from five yards out to cut it to 38-34 less than a minute later after Mylz Blake recovered a fumble on a backwards pass at the 15-yard line.

But the Mountaineers had a response to every SOU run. EOU stretched the lead to 11 when Zach Bartlow capped a seven-play, 84-yard drive with a 10-yard scamper with 1:59 to go. Alfred Gross set the score up with a 57-yard run earlier in the drive.

Trosin was 33-for-50 passing and Retzlaff had 12 catches for 166 yards.

Tow had 54 yards to lead the Southern Oregon ground attack, which was held to just 133 yards. SOU did outgain the Mountaineers, 493-454, but was hurt by three lost fumbles.

Bartlow finished with 292 yards passing and four total touchdowns, including two on the ground, to lead Eastern Oregon. Gross led the ground game with 82 yards.

Southern Oregon (0-1) takes a week away from Frontier play when it visits UC Davis Saturday.