Everyone knows that the Southern Oregon University Raiders are defending national champions in football. However, that doesn’t make this season’s path to a repeat any easier. The Raiders lost many senior starters on defense and offense from last year. The biggest of which was National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Player of the Year and starting quarterback, Austin Dodge.
“The biggest challenge would have to be losing their experience and leadership they brought to the table. They knew their job and executed it at a high level and made big plays throughout every game of the season,” said Nate Timoteo, a 3 year starter on the offensive line.
Filling the shoes of the best quarterback in school history would not be an easy feat, as a starter hadn’t been named when the season began.
The first game of the season was against rival and at the time #4 ranked Carroll College. While the defense looked strong, it was clear that the offense had struggled in a 26-20 defeat. SOU stayed in the game and had a chance to win on the final drive, but a couple of dropped passes prevented them from doing so.
Going into the second game of the season, against #13 ranked Eastern Oregon, it was still unclear who was the starting quarterback. Similar to the first game, junior transfer Tanner Trosin and sophomore Kamerun Smith were sharing snaps. With the offense only scoring fourteen points in the first half, the SOU coaching staff decided to go almost solely with Trosin. The Raider machine never looked back. Trailing thirty five to fourteen, Trosin lead the Raiders down the field on four straight scoring drives. The largest comeback in SOU football history was capped off with a game-winning field goal on the final drive of the game.
Trosin went on to start the next three games, while still sharing snaps with Smith, and it was clear this change was beneficial to the team. SOU won all three contests against College of Idaho, Montana State University, and #17 University of Montana-Western. More importantly though, the offense found its stride, putting up over 500 yards of total offense in each and scoring a school record of 41 first quarter points against Montana State.
The Raiders most recent win came last week at the University of Montana in a 37-30 overtime thriller. The offense stepped up huge, again putting up over 500 yards of total offense. The defense however, impressed late in the game. The Raiders stopped Montana Western on 4 straight plays from just 1 yard away giving their offense a chance to win the game.
“The season has had its ups and downs, but I’d say the biggest change occurred week two versus Eastern Oregon. We had just lost to Carroll the week prior and were humbled by it. Reality kicked in and everyone knew last year was over. We took that loss and learned from it and came back even harder because of it,” said senior receiver, Teran Togia.
The Raiders have a chance for redemption on the way to their championship dreams as Carroll college comes to Ashland this weekend. The highly anticipated rematch is set for 1p.m. on Saturday at Raider Stadium. Junior quarterback Jack Singer, is just one of the players excited about the matchup.
“Carroll is a very good and well coached team. Every time we play these guys it comes down to the very end. We dropped one the first week and we are hungry to get them back. I know that it will be a tough game because they are coming off a loss and will be anxious to play us and get back on track,” said the back-up signal caller.