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Raiders ride Trosin's heroics to quarterfinal victory over No. 2 Baker

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. — By now, the rest of the NAIA should be used to the fact that the Southern Oregon University football team is an underdog only in title when it comes to the postseason.

There was nothing particularly surprising or remarkable Saturday about the seventh-ranked SOU's 24-19 upset of No. 2 Baker on a brisk, 32-degree afternoon at Liston Field – the Raiders were just better, marching into the national semifinals for the second year in a row and the second time in school history.

The Raiders (10-2 overall) never trailed the Wildcats (11-2), who were previously undefeated at home and coming off a 68-point performance in last week's first round against Point (Ga.). The outcome was temporarily in question with 1:30 remaining, when the Raiders went for it on fourth-and-7 from Baker's 29-yard line. Tanner Trosin's pass slipped out of his hands and landed incomplete, seemingly giving the Wildcats the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but a pass interference call gave the Raiders a first down and a chance to line up in victory formation.

Trosin was named the offensive player of the game, completing 19 of 30 passes for 261 yards and rushing for 46 more in a cool performance that led SOU to 451 yards against the third-best pass defense in the nation. The Raider defense, led by Devvon Gage's 13 tackles and Isiah Carter's 10, did its job in forcing Baker to punt on four of its last six drives and holding Clarence Clark, the NAIA's leading receiver, to four catches for 30 yards.

One win away from a return trip to Daytona Beach, Fla., SOU's semifinal destination will be Sioux City, Iowa, where top-ranked Morningside will be waiting after a 51-6 thumping of No. 8 Tabor (Kan.).

The Raiders have been the lower seed in fourth of their last five postseason triumphs.

Running back Melvin Mason and the offensive line paved the way to a 14-10 halftime lead that was mounted despite two interceptions and an unsuccessful fake field-goal attempt that kept Baker in the game. SOU's first drive went 12 plays for 99 yards, capped by Mason's one-yard touchdown plow. The lead held up into the second quarter thanks to Gage's interception and Sam Woods' blocked field goal, until Abram Garcia's 36-yard field goal made it 7-3 early in the second.

Mason, who rushed 19 times for 89 yards, answered on SOU's ensuing drive with a 19-yard TD run — his 10th postseason score in the last two years — with 6:50 to play in the half. Baker quarterback Logan Brettell, making just his second start of the season, kept the Wildcats in it with a 15-yard TD pass to Quanzee Johnson, and Tucker Pauley's pick of Trosin in the end zone seconds before halftime held the lead at four.

Other than being the beneficiary of the game-clinching penalty, Trosin also made the back-breaking play of the day on the opening drive of the third quarter. Facing third-and-13, he avoided a sack by wrestling away from two Baker linemen, then juking one more defender before finding an open Matt Retzlaff for a 25-yard pass that turned into a 60-yard touchdown.

Retzlaff caught five passes for 100 yards, surpassing his brother, Ryan, for fifth place on the SOU career TD reception list with 25. Jeremy Scottow compiled 74 reception yards on six catches, three of which converted third- or fourth-down tries, and Keegan Lawrence amassed 55 big yards on just six carries.

Baker's response was another Garcia field goal from 37 yards, but SOU kicker Marcus Montano brought the lead back to 24-13 with an 18-yarder of his own on the second play of the fourth quarter.

SOU's defense dictated the held the Wildcats to just one first down on their next two drives. They didn't break through until Brettell took them 80 yards on 11 plays and rushed in a six-yard TD with 2:55 to play. A failed two-point conversion try kept SOU up five.

With all three timeouts left to play with, Baker attempted an onside kick that went out of bounds. Two first downs and a pass-interference call later, the Raiders had sealed the win.

Baker finished with 342 yards of offense, well under its average of 449. The Wildcats had been held under 30 points just twice prior to Saturday.