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SOU hangs on for third straight win

LA GRANDE — Southern Oregon is suddenly streaking in the right direction, and its new life is complete with an even Frontier Conference record following Saturday afternoon’s 31-25 escape job against Eastern Oregon at a drizzly Community Stadium.

The Raiders (3-4 overall, 3-3 Frontier) were sharp enough in the middle periods, where they did all of their scoring, to nullify an ugly box score and overcome four turnovers, a safety and their lowest yardage total in a win (261) since 2011.

It was their third straight victory overall and their seventh in eight Frontier tries at EOU (2-5, 2-4), which brought a 31-15 deficit into the fourth quarter.

Junior linebacker Collin Crown dominated on the defensive side with 11 tackles, four for losses, two sacks and a forced fumble, and sophomore linebacker Jake Regino had 12 tackles and a fumble recovery.

After getting the ball back with 13 seconds to go, the clock ran out on the Mountaineers as Saige Wilkerson’s 38-yard reception was cut off at SOU’s 15-yard line.

SOU quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson went 20 of 31 — including a 16 of 23 display in the first half — for 182 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing TD.

He and the Raiders dug themselves an early hole with an errant long snap that turned into a safety, which preceded EOU quarterback Kai Quinn’s TD dive at the end of a six-minute, 75-yard drive that made it 8-0.

A bad Mountaineer punt gave SOU a short field near the end of the first, and Hutchinson took advantage — first converting on fourth-and-9 with a completion to Christian Graney, then taking it himself from 11 yards out for SOU’s first score.

Following a defensive stop, Hutchinson threw a 26-yard TD pass to Jordan Suell, making Suell the ninth player in team history with 20 career receiving TDs.

Graycen Kennedy’s 25-yard field goal gave the Raiders a 17-15 edge as time expired in the first half, and EOU fumbled away a punt return two minutes into the third quarter, setting up Hutchinson’s 11-yard TD pass to Hykeem Massey.

After a three-and-out, the Raiders went on a 10-play, 50-yard drive capped by Trent Banner’s 2-yard run to make it 31-15.

They gave EOU life by fumbling away two rushing attempts on their own half of the field in the fourth quarter.

The Mountaineers turned those into a 15-yard Victor Dias TD rush with 12:30 left and Jaiden Machuca’s 24-yard field goal with nine minutes to play.

EOU got nothing else though, and lost for the fourth time in five games since a 24-21 win at Raider Stadium on Sept. 7.

Graney and Khalil Hudson had 59 receiving yards each, and Massey netted 54 yards on 11 carries.

Defensively, Elijah Swonger was credited with a forced fumble and a recovery.

The Raiders ended a five-game Frontier road slide going into two marquee home games.

At 2 p.m. next Saturday, they’ll host eighth-ranked College of Idaho. The Yotes stayed perfect Saturday against No. 19 Montana Tech with a 58-yard field goal as time expired, winning 16-14.

On Nov. 2, the Raiders will welcome in second-place Montana Tech, which they now trail by just one game in the standings.

For the first time since 1974, the Raiders have played five straight games decided by seven points or fewer.