SOU's dream start fizzles

This season couldn't have started off much better for coach Steve Helminiak and the Southern Oregon University football team.

A week after shocking 21st-ranked Montana Tech on the road, the Raiders held a 9-0 first quarter lead Saturday on their home field and all signs pointed toward their first 2-0 start since being crowned NAIA Independent champions in 2001 — not shabby for a team that mustered only one win two seasons ago.

Three quarters later, the Raiders had lost the lead, the subsequent momentum they had built from winning three straight dating back to last year and, more importantly, a painful 15-14 decision to Humboldt State.

"This is a hard one to swallow," said senior wide receiver Darryl Price. "Everyone's having a hard time with it because we know that's a game we should win."

Price, who is quickly emerging as one of the NAIA's top receivers after consecutive big games, led the Raiders (1-1) with 129 receiving yards, hooking up with quarterback Bryan Lee-Lauduski nine times.

Lee-Lauduski was honored as the NAIA Independent Offensive player of the week for his performance in Montana and followed that up with a 343 yard effort, connecting with seven different receivers on 28 of 47 passing. But he also tallied four interceptions compared to just one touchdown.

"We were able to drive the length of the field at will," said Helminiak, now in his third year as head coach, "but we couldn't capitalize when we needed to."

The Raiders' inability to put the ball in the end zone after what was, for the most part, a well-executed game offensively finally came back to haunt them in the fourth quarter.

Similar scoring struggles for the Lumberjacks (1-1) prompted them to try a wide receiver pass, as Kevin Miles caught a lateral and promptly launched a pass to Mike Streck-Woodward, good for a 46-yard gain to the 8-yard line. Quarterback Mike Proulx rushed the ball into the endzone himself the next play, giving the Lumberjacks their first lead of the game at 15-14 with seven minutes on the clock.

The Raiders had two chances to avenge the score late, but again were unable to take advantage. They took the ball 51 yards to the 25-yard line on seven plays, but Lee-Lauduski's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by linebacker Casey Nelight.

The Southern Oregon defense then forced a three-and-out, and the Raiders pushed the ball to the Humboldt State 29-yard line on the ensuing possession, but Lee-Lauduski's pass with 2:29 to go found Lumberjack cornerback Justin Price to seal the Raiders' fate.

"Every time we got into the red zone we just messed up the little things like outs, blocking assignments and things that most people wouldn't be able to see but we know were there" Price said. "We've seen flashes of what we can do in games, and we've had practices where we were just excellent but we need to put it all together."

Helminiak agreed with Price's assessment.

"What we need to take out of this is that in every play of a game, every individual has to execute their correct responsibilities," he said. "Every play can drastically impact the course of the game, and that's what we found out because Humboldt is a team that's going to eventually hurt you if you let them hang around."

The defense, which Helminiak credited for keeping the Raiders in the game, was led by Kendrick Baker and Anthony Scolamieri who had eight tackles (four solo) and seven tackles (six solo), respectively.

The Raiders got on the board on their first drive when Lee-Lauduski connected with Brandon Stout for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Corey O'Neill proceeded to miss the PAT, but avenged for it with a 29-yard field goal later in the frame.

The Raiders tacked on two more points before halftime courtesy of a safety, clinging to an 11-3 lead at the break.

Running backs Marlon Rosales and Marquis Malcom netted 63 yards to head the Southern Oregon ground game.

The path gets no easier for the Raiders, who will prepare to hit the road to face NCAA Division IAA opponent Sacramento State on Saturday at 2 p.m.

"Now that we watched the film and got to talk about it, we need to put this one behind us and put it in the trash," Price said on Sunday. "We got a fresh week, and nobody else probably believes it but we all know we can play with Sacramento State and we want to do the same thing to them that Humboldt did to us."

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