Raiders look to go out strong

The Southern Oregon football team wraps up the 2009 season Saturday at North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D.

Kickoff between the Raiders (2-6) and the NCAA Division I Fighting Sioux (4-4) is set for 4 p.m. Central.

Southern Oregon had a week off last week after dropping a 21-0 decision to NCAA Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor on Oct. 24.

"We want to close out the season on as positive of a note as we possibly can," SOU head coach Steve Helminiak said. "We need to go out and play hard for our seniors. They are a group that has kept this team together through a tough season and have been true leaders."

Sophomore running back Brandon Baldwin went over 1,000 yards in the setback to Mary Hardin-Baylor and now sits at 1,049 for the season.

Defensively, senior Will Watson has a team-best 10 tackles-for-loss and 31/2 sacks and senior Thomas Sandoval had a team-high 50 tackles.

North Dakota comes into this week's game following a 31-17 upset victory over 16th ranked Cal Poly. The Fighting Sioux had 427 yards of total offense and 238 yards rushing in the victory. Junior quarterback Jake Landry had 181 yards passing and 92 yards on the ground.

"On both sides of the ball, they give you a lot of different looks and they are very big and physical," Helminiak said. "They won't give you a lot of base looks."

North Dakota is in their second year of their transition from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I FBS (formally I-AA). As a D-II program, the Fighting Sioux won the 2001 National Championship and won 24 North Central Conference titles.

Cross Country

The Southern Oregon men's cross country team looks to make it back-to-back championships this Saturday when they take part in the Cascade Conference Championships in Springfield.

The championships will be held at Dorris Ranch and will start at 11 a.m.

Southern Oregon bolted into the top spot of the NAIA rankings last week, ending a 29-week run by two-time defending National Champion Malone (Ohio) and again was voted No. 1 in this week's poll.

The Raiders are undefeated during the 2009 season, defeating a large number of NCAA Division I, II, III and ranked NAIA squads.

A championship this year will be the fourth in the program's history. SOU won last year and also went back-to-back in 2004-05.

"The team is starting to feel how special it would be to win back-to-back titles," SOU head coach Brent Ericksen said. "We have our goals and the first one is to win at conference."

Southern Oregon looks like it will run at full strength for the first time since winning the Charles Bowles Invitational.

Leading the way will be junior David Laney. A three-time Cascade Conference Runner of the Week, Laney gives the Raiders a legitimate chance at coming away with the individual championship.

"David's having an incredible season," Ericksen said. "He just keeps better and it doesn't matter if it's at a meet or at practice, he's getting better every time he goes out. We started out the season as a really strong pack and now he's pulling away."

Ericksen expects College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Concordia to also factor in the team race.

On the women's side, the Raiders are sneaking up on the conference teams.

Southern Oregon continues to receive votes in the Top 25 poll and this week was only five spots away from jumping in the Top 25.

"We are really starting to run aggressive," Ericksen said. "We are pushing the envelope and have an outside chance to be a factor at the conference meet."

Freshman Seena Frantz, an Ashland High grad, is the top Raider heading into the championships.

"Seena is still figuring it out," Ericksen said. "She has a lot of potential and plenty of room to grow."

Sixth-ranked College of Idaho is the favorite on the women's side.

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