Near miss: Southern Oregon comeback attempt falls short

The Southern Oregon University football team was in a giving mood Saturday night in just its second of three home games on the season.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, Linfield was more than willing to take advantage of the home team's generosity.

The Wildcats, ranked 20th in the NCAA Division III poll, converted five first-half SOU turnovers into a 24-3 lead, then held off a valiant Raider comeback in the second half to clinch a 30-22 victory in front of 3,100 fans at Raider Stadium.

The victory was the 35th in 44 tries all-time against SOU and was the sixth straight win in the series for Linfield (3-2).

The Raiders (3-3), who also racked up 11 penalties for 102 yards, clawed back to within 24-22 with 7:48 left in the contest, but Linfield countered on its next possession with a 44-yard touchdown strike from Trevor Scharer to Jordan Boustead on a third-and-12 play.

The hold on the point-after attempt was bobbled, leaving SOU an opening but the Raiders couldn't get past the Linfield 39-yard line on their final offensive series.

"I don't know what's easier, playing with a big lead and watching it dissipate or being involved in a nail-biter," said second-year Linfield coach Joe Smith, whose team lost to Willamette earlier this season after jumping out to a 19-0 advantage. "I'm proud of the way the guys hung in there and believed until the very end."

SOU battled back in the third quarter when the Wildcats were also bitten by the turnover bug.

Scharer was sacked and fumbled on Linfield's opening drive of the second half. Free safety Danson Cappo recovered to set up the SOU offense and, four plays later, quarterback Bryan Lee-Lauduski found freshman receiver Darryl Price for a touchdown.

The PAT failed &

a common theme Saturday for both sides &

but 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back Darrell Hutsona instantly put the Raiders right back in contention on their next series.

Following a Linfield punt that pushed the Raiders back to their own 9, the senior Hutsona took the first-down handoff, appeared to be bottled up at the line of scrimmage, then squirted free down the Linfield sideline for a 91-yard score.

Again, the extra point was no good, but the momentum had shifted back toward Southern Oregon.

"I was just doing whatever I could to contribute," Hutsona said. "We came out fast (in the second half). The coaches got on us at halftime and told us to pick it up."

An interception by SOU's Akeem Jackson one minute later set the Raiders up again in prime territory.

Southern Oregon took the ball down to the Linfield — &

keyed by a 30-yard completion to Kevin Holtzman on a third-and-16 play from the SOU 29. The Wildcats, however, held on downs to get the ball back.

The Raiders narrowed the gap even more when Lee-Lauduski capped off a seven-play, 57-yard drive with a 10-yard TD strike into the outstretched hands of Holtzman in the back right corner of the end zone.

Linfield answered with its own score, however, and was able to convert a 21-yard pass to tight end Brett Smedley on a third-down play from the Wildcats' 42 with two minutes left to put a nail in the Raiders' coffin.

"Our defense helped us a lot," said Scharer. "Give the Southern Oregon Raiders credit. Their defense was tough and they didn't let us run some of the things offensively we wanted to."

Despite their comeback, it was penalties and the poor play in the first half that will haunt the Raiders.

"We got everything we wanted in the first half, we just didn't execute," said SOU coach Steve Helminiak. "We had way too many breakdowns. It was different segments breaking down in each (offensive) series. We turned some of those things around in the second half but it was too little too late."

Scharer completed 17 of 35 for 195 yards, with two touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Lee-Lauduski, who was under serious duress for most of the first half, overcame his four picks and one fumble in the opening half to finish with 194 yards through the air on 16 of 36 completions.

Hutsona carried 10 times for 116 yards and Holtzman snared four passes for a team-high 65 yards.

Overall, the Raiders outgained Linfield, 359 to 220.

But the numerous miscues ultimately did in Southern Oregon.

"As a program, we have come a long ways in a year and a half," said Helminiak. "But until we overcome those mental mistakes, we'll be in a dogfight every week."

Linfield 7 17 0 6 ""30

Southern Oregon — 0 12 7 ""22

SO &

FG O'Neill 39

L &

Smedley 12 pass from Scharer (Birkhofer kick)

L &

Scharer — run (Birkhofer kick)

L &

Lever — run (Birkhofer kick)

L &

FG Birkhofer 31

SO &

Price 8 pass from Lee-Lauduski (kick failed)

SO &

Hutsona 91 run (run failed)

SO &

Holtzman 10 pass from Lee-Lauduski (kick failed)

L &

Boustead 44 pass from Scharer (run failed)



First Downs 16 19

Rushes-Yards 34-25 37-165

Passing Yards 195 194

Comp-Att-Int 17-35-2 16-36-4

Total Yards 220 359

Punts 5-41.0 3-39.3

Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-1

Penalties-yards 6-57 11-102


RUSHING""Linfield, Lever 8-21, Masters 11-16, Cruickshank 9-6, Scharer 6-(-18). Southern Oregon, Hutsona 10-116, Rosales 18-56, Van Zant 2-4, Lee-Lauduski 7-(-11).

PASSING""Linfield, Scharer 17-35-2 195. Southern Oregon, Lee-Lauduski 16-36-4 194.

RECEIVING""Linfield, Masters 5-39, Boustead 2-50, Banker 2-41, Smedley 2-33, Vierra 2-11, Cruickshank 2-1, Nelson 1-15, Kaluza 1-5. Southern Oregon, Holtzman 4-65, Price 3-50, Greenidge 3-29, Patenaude 2-26, Rosales 2-3, Harding 1-11, Mitchell 1-10.

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