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SOU football seeks to keep win streak alive

The first half of Frontier Conference play left Southern Oregon chasing three teams and tied with two others in the standings, but momentum is building on the Raiders’ side for the first time all season with opportunities ahead to right some of their early wrongs.

One of those will present itself at 1 p.m. Saturday, when SOU (2-4 overall, 2-3 Frontier) visits Eastern Oregon (2-4, 2-3) at La Grande’s Community Stadium.

Over the next three weeks, the Raiders will see each of the Frontier teams that defeated them in September as their uphill climb continues.

They’ll bring back-to-back wins to the fight, having scored the game-winning touchdown against Rocky Mountain (Mont.) with 1 minute, 12 seconds left last Saturday. In their previous game, they overtook Carroll (Mont.) with 44 seconds left in their previous outing.

SERIES NOTES: Saturday’s matchup will be the 78th all-time between SOU and EOU, and the Raiders maintain a 54-20-3 lead. The Raiders have seen EOU more than any other opponent. The first meeting was in 1930.

Home field has not been advantageous for either side since the teams became Frontier foes: SOU is 6-1 in conference games against the Mountaineers in La Grande, 2-5 in Ashland, and won the only neutral site contest in 2016. SOU’s last trip to EOU, for the 2018 opener, resulted in a 32-13 win.

EOU claimed the first matchup this season, 24-21, on Sept. 7 at Raider Stadium. With 10 seconds to go, a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kai Quinn to Saige Wilkersen was the difference. SOU appeared to be in control late, leading 21-17 with first down at EOU’s 16-yard line and three minutes on the clock.

EOU has defeated SOU twice in the same season only once: in 2016, when the Mountaineers went on to reach the national semifinal round.

BRIEFLY: SOU went its first four Frontier games without a 100-yard receiver until Christian Graney pulled in six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 21-14 win over Rocky. In conference play, Graney ranks fourth in receptions (26) and sixth in reception yardage per game (64.6).

Hykeem Massey’s 120 rushing yards on 21 attempts represented the highest total on the ground for a Raider in nine games spanning back to 2018. The junior has averaged 4.9 yards per attempt on 34 tries in SOU’s last two games after posting 2.5 per carry over 21 rushes through the first four.

Junior corner Michael Chisley Jr. collected his fourth interception against Rocky, making him one of just 12 individuals in the NAIA to have hit that number and putting him one off of the national lead. He picked off EOU quarterback Kai Quinn twice on Sept. 7 and already has more interceptions in Frontier play than any Raider since Karrington Jones recorded five in 2015.

The Raider defense didn’t give up an offensive touchdown in the second half against Rocky. It hasn’t given up a fourth-quarter touchdown in three straight games and is currently allowing the fourth fewest yards per play (5.4) in the Frontier.

Collin Crown and James Porter were both in on two of SOU’s season-high six sacks against Rocky. Porter has now been credited with 10 in his career, and Crown still ranks second in Frontier tackles per game (9.2).

In his last seven Frontier starts, Wyatt Hutchinson has thrown for 14 TDs compared to four interceptions. His 31-yard connection with Graney last week marked his 20th career TD pass.

The Raiders have played five straight games decided by seven points or fewer for the first time since 1974. Their five Frontier games have been decided by 17 combined points, while EOU’s have been decided by 138.

The Raiders are 23-13 overall in Frontier road games, including a 20-6 mark against unranked opponents. They’re looking to snap a five-game Frontier road skid that started last October.

Last week’s win was Charlie Hall’s 20th in three seasons as head coach of the Raiders, making him the eighth Raider head coach to reach that milestone. His winning percentage (.689) is the best in team history.

AROUND THE FRONTIER: Sitting in first place at 5-0, College of Idaho stayed at No. 8 in Monday’s latest NAIA Top 25 coaches’ poll. Montana Tech (4-1) moved up three spots to No. 19, and Montana Western (4-1) dropped seven to No. 22 following Tech’s 35-12 defeat of the Bulldogs in Butte.

Tech will have a chance to force a first-place tie on Saturday when it visits C of I, though the Yotes won the first matchup 28-14 in Butte. Meanwhile, Montana Western will travel to Carroll (Mont.).

COMING UP: SOU will finish the month with a homecoming battle against College of Idaho on Oct. 26 and a 2 p.m. kickoff time that will be preceded by a homecoming parade.

The home finale on Nov. 2 against Montana Tech will be celebrated with the 2019 SOU Sports Hall of Fame ceremony and Senior Day festivities, and has been tabbed Military and Veterans Appreciation Day. All veterans with valid ID will be admitted free of charge, and former SOU student-athletes who have served or are currently serving are encouraged to fill out this form for a special recognition.

ABOUT EASTERN OREGON: The Mountaineers ended a three-game losing streak last week with a 45-7 defeat of last-place Montana State-Northern. Quinn completed 24-of-34 passes for 257 yards and rushed 12 times for 113 to lead hand the Lights their fifth straight loss.

EOU has otherwise scuffled offensively, ranking sixth during Frontier action in yards per play (4.9) and fifth in yards per game (352.4). Minus his top targets from a season ago, Quinn has thrown 11 picks compared to four TDs in conference games. The Mountaineers are also producing just 3.6 yards per rush.

EOU corner Zackary Jacobs it tied with SOU’s Chisley with four interceptions, though as a collective the Mountaineers are allowing opponents to complete 61 percent of their passes. Haziel Ledezma leads the team with 33 tackles and lineman Sage DeLong did most of his damage at SOU, where he picked up five of his seven tackles for losses and all three of his sacks.

Tim Camp, EOU’s 12th-year head coach, is 69-57 overall and 7-12 against the Raiders.

Southern Oregon University Junior Hykeem Massey runs the ball downfield against Carroll College at Raider Stadium on Saturday.(PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)