The Quest for Back-to-Back Championships is Underway
Michael Brock, Staff Writer
The Southern Oregon University football team took an important step to defending their NAIA title in Friday’s annual ‘Red and White’ spring game. Raider Stadium boasted a respectable turnout for a spring game, with parents of players, students, and Ashland community members in attendance.
A major priority this offseason will be to successfully transition to a new quarterback after losing 4-year starter and 2014 NAIA Player of the Year, Austin Dodge. Junior-to-be Jack Singler, sophomore-to-be, Kamerun Smith, and junior transfer Tanner Trosin expect to be in a tight race for the starting position between now and fall camp.
The White team, lead by Singler, won the offensive-oriented game, 34-24 against the Smith-led Red team. The teams traded leads throughout, with the White team leading 20-16, until Smith threw a 25-yard TD to Adonis Griffin to begin the action-packed fourth quarter.
Running back, Melvin Mason demolished the White defense on the next possession with a 61-yard rush, then once getting the ball back after a defensive stop, Singler found Dominic Giampoli for a 31-yard TD which put the game out of reach for the Red.
According to the Tribune, SOU offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht was excited that the Raiders’ offense, which lost Dodge, but is bringing back multiple talented running backs, looked strong for a spring game. “It was fun to watch the execution offensively … We didn’t look much different than we looked last year in the spring game with all those guys returning. I thought that was probably the most exciting thing, that both sides executed.”
Starting quarterback hopeful, Kamerun Smith shared his thoughts on the game and his performance, saying, “I think I played alright, but I think the whole team in general played fantastic. The White squad, they obviously got the win, but the Red team did their thing and the defense played well, too. There’s always room for improvement and that’s all I’m trying to do; get better.”
The race for starting quarterback is heating up and the spring game separated Singler and Smith as the frontrunners for the position. According to coach Craig Howard via The Tribune, Singler is in the lead right now because he makes good decisions and, “The guy that gets our team into the end zone the most is going to be our starter, and when Singler’s in there we’ve moved the ball the most consistently and scored the most.”
Howard adds that Smith, who just slightly trails Singler, is confident, but needs more consistency. “He’s got the tools, so now it’s time for him to get on the horse and ride it. He’s got a good arm and he’s smart, but again, there’s been a lack on consistency. Some days he’s brilliant, and then the next day he’ll throw a couple picks.” Each quarterback brings strengths to the team and a decision is expected to be made before fall camp.
As for 2014 NAIA Player of the Year, Austin Dodge; he has signed as an un-drafted free agent with the National Football League’s, Atlanta Falcons. He signed almost immediately after the final round of the NFL Draft last week.
The Raiders sit atop the pre-season NAIA rankings and will open their season on the road September 5th, against rival Carroll College. Their first home game is scheduled for the following week on September 12th against Eastern Oregon.
Kamerun Smith concluded, stating, “[We’re] ready to take on Carroll.”