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SOU football set for home finale vs. Montana Tech

Southern Oregon’s outside shot at a playoff bid fizzled last week when its three-game winning streak ended at the hands of unbeaten College of Idaho. The next-best thing on the Raiders’ list, then, is ruining Frontier Conference nemesis Montana Tech’s good time.

Attempting to improve on a No. 19 ranking and return to the 16-team NAIA Championship Series for the first time since 2016, the Orediggers (5-2 overall, 5-2 Frontier Conference) will visit Raider Stadium as SOU (3-5, 3-4) kicks off its home finale at 1 p.m. Saturday. Tech has suffered its only losses against C of I and enters the week tied in second place with Montana Western. The Raiders — who will recognize 14 seniors appearing in Ashland for the last time prior to the game — need to run the table over their last three games to finish with a winning conference record for the seventh time in eight seasons.

Series Notes

  • SOU and Tech have split 14 head-to-head matchups dating back to 2007. The Raiders maintain a 6-5 series lead in FC games and are 3-3 against the Diggers in Ashland.
  • The teams’ first meeting this season was a 17-14 Diggers win in Butte on Sept. 21, which marked SOU’s third straight three-point loss. The Raiders blanked Tech in the second half, denying the Diggers on six drives in a row, but they finished with more punt yards (303) than offensive yards (231) and came up empty on three fourth-quarter drives. Damaree Morris’s interception with two minutes left sealed the outcome.
  • Tech’s last visit to Ashland on Sept. 15, 2018 resulted in a 44-12 SOU win, the Diggers’ most lopsided loss in the last five years. The Raiders closed the game with four unanswered second-half touchdowns.
  • In 2015 and 2016, the Diggers clinched Frontier titles with wins at Raider Stadium. In 2017, the Raiders finished off their 10-0 run through the conference with a 24-10 triumph in Butte.
  • AROUND THE FRONTIER: College of Idaho improved one spot to No. 6, Montana Tech moved up one to No. 19 and Montana Western stayed at No. 24 in this week’s NAIA Top 25 coaches’ poll. C of I — which joined the Frontier when it brought back its program in 2014 — can clinch at least a share of its first title with a win Saturday at Eastern Oregon. UMW will host Rocky Mountain, but has a date next week at C of I and will finish its season at home against SOU on Nov. 16.

Senior Moments

  • Of the 14 SOU seniors playing their final home game, 11 were on the roster when the Raiders went undefeated through the 2017 FC schedule and appeared in the national semifinals.
  • Two have been Academic All-Frontier team selections: Austin May and Addison Whitham, both business majors.
  • The class of receivers comprises Jordan Suell, who with two TD catches last week moved to No. 7 on SOU’s all-time list with 22 in his career, and is 171 yards away from becoming the 10th Raider with 2,000 reception yards; Jason Shelley, who owns 10 career reception TDs and 1,569 reception yards; and Parker Randle, who is enjoying his best season to date with 26 catches for 268 yards.
  • On the defensive line, August Forrest III, Gerald Greene, Noah Johnson and James Porter have combined for 25 career sacks, with Forrest and Porter accounting for 19 of those in four years each.
  • Michael Chisley Jr. is tied for first in the Frontier and 10th in the NAIA with four interceptions.
  • Craig Contreras Jr., a quarterback/tight end by trade, has filled in this season at punter for injured all-star Jaxon Clark and performed admirably, ranking 28th in the NAIA at 38 yards per attempt with six going for 50 or more.
  • Isaiah Tharp and Calvin Watwood have broken in as starters this season on the offensive line.
  • Stanford Toloke is a fifth-year Raider, having been around since the Raiders played for the national championship in 2015.

HALL READY: During halftime of Saturday’s game, the Raiders will honor the four individuals who make up the SOU Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019. The official banquet/induction ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room.

  • Michael Ashe (1978-82) was a six-time All-American and 10-time NAIA District 12 champion who broke school swimming records in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyles. As a water polo player, he was part of Southern Oregon’s run of 12 consecutive titles at the Northwest Championships.
  • Chuck Mills (1980-88) was a key figure in raising the profile of Southern Oregon football, going 48-40-1 in nine years as head coach and leading the team to its first NAIA Championship Series victory in 1987. In 1983 — after spearheading a fundraising campaign that turned Raider Stadium into one of the top small-college venues in the country — he led the Raiders to their first nine-win season, first top-10 national ranking and an NAIA District II championship, later earning district coach of the year honors.
  • Lindsey Stone Wilkens (2007-10) left as the only three-time Cascade Conference Volleyball Player of the Year in circuit history and a three-time NAIA All-American. The setter and Ashland High product led the Raiders to a 53-5 record in CCC matches and two titles during her career and finished with 3,217 assists in just three seasons.
  • Ken Wharry (1986-88) became the 11th individual national champion in SOU wrestling history as a 134-pounder in 1988. In two seasons, he helped the Raiders go 28-1 in dual matches — captaining the undefeated 1987-88 squad — and as a senior posted a 32-5 individual record.
  • HOME HISTORY: With an upset of Tech, the Raiders can finish with a winning home record for the ninth consecutive season. They enter the contest with a 104-61 overall record at Raider Stadium, including a 26-8 record in Frontier games. SOU is 8-6 at Raider Stadium against ranked opponents, getting its last such win against Montana Western on Nov. 10, 2018.

About Montana Tech

  • The Diggers enter the week as the top defensive team in the conference, allowing just 12.9 points per game — an average that ranks eighth in the NAIA. They’re giving up FC-bests of 255 total yards per game and four yards per play, and their average of 140 pass-yards allowed is No. 3 on the national leaderboard.
  • Over their last four games combined, they’ve allowed one offensive touchdown.
  • The Diggers have won five of their last six, and in their only loss during that stretch — 16-14 at College of Idaho — they scored the go-ahead TD with 21 seconds to go, only to lose on a 58-yard field goal that was the longest at any level of college football this season.
  • All-American running back Jed Fike has not appeared since leaving with an injury in the first quarter of Tech’s game against SOU on Sept. 21. They’ve still managed more than 200 rushing yards per game with a ground game headed by Blake Counts (83 yards/game, 7 TDs).
  • Quarterback Jet Campbell is completing 58 percent of his passes for 183 yards per game, throwing just three picks. Five of his seven TD passes have gone to Trevor Hoffman.
  • Senior linebacker Carter Myers leads the team in tackles (60), tackles for losses (9 ), sacks (4) and interceptions (3).
  • Ninth-year head coach Chuck Morrell has posted a 48-39 record in Frontier games.

Southern Oregon University redshirt-junior Wyatt Hutchinson attempting to pass against the Yotes from the College of Idaho at Raider Stadium on Saturday.(PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)