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Raiders 7th in Frontier preseason poll

WHITEFISH, Mont. — It should come as no surprise that the Southern Oregon University football team will have to prove itself to the rest of the Frontier Conference after limping to last season’s finish line.

The Raiders received an extra jolt of motivation when they were picked to finish seventh in the eight-team circuit’s preseason coaches’ poll, which was released Tuesday during the Frontier football media day.

Montana Western will enter 2022 as the preseason favorite, having collected four of eight first-place votes. Carroll (Mont.) attracted three first-place votes and tied for second in the poll with Rocky Mountain (Mont.), just ahead of College of Idaho.

College of Idaho, Montana Western and Rocky Mountain shared the 2021 title with matching 7-3 records, though UMW was the conference’s lone representative in the 16-team NAIA Championship Series and bowed out at top-ranked Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) in the first round.

SOU will be attempting to rebound from a 3-7 campaign that was preceded by an idle season brought on by COVID-19. The Raiders lost their last three games by nine points combined.

They were without quarterback Matt Struck for the duration of that final stretch, but the Central Point native and Missouri State transfer is back for one more season to lead an offense that returns nine individuals with starting experience. Among them are all-conference senior receivers Bryce Goggin and Christian Graney, and an offensive line that was green a year ago but remains intact.

SOU head coach Charlie Hall — whose debut season in 2017 marked the Raiders’ most recent Frontier title — earlier this year appointed a new coordinator for the offense in Austin Brown, and another for the defense in Neil Fendall.

Fendall’s defensive unit will feature an explosive line anchored by Alejandro Sanchez, an experienced linebacker corps led by Jake Regino and Murphy McDowell, and a slew of returning starters in the secondary with Stokes Botelho, DeShawn Craig and Seth Miller.

The Raiders open the season on Aug. 27 against Rocky Mountain in Ashland. Season and individual-game tickets will be available next week.

FRONTIER PRESEASON POLL

(First-place votes in parentheses)

TEAMPTS

1. Montana Western (4)43

2. Carroll (Mont.) (3)37

3. Rocky Mountain (Mont.)37

4. College of Idaho (1)33

5. Montana Tech30

6. Eastern Oregon19

7. Southern Oregon17

8. Montana State-Northern8