Suspensions leave SOU shorthanded at Menlo

Five Southern Oregon University football players have been suspended for today's game for breaking team rules, and as a result, freshman quarterback Chris Kammel, from Phoenix, will make his collegiate debut as the starter.

Quarterback Paul Sweeney and leading rusher Brandon Baldwin were among the players disciplined one game for unspecified reasons.

They, along with starting running back Mike Springer and part-time starting defensive backs Drew Nobles and Dayne Mendes, will sit out today's game at noon at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif.

"We had a number of guys who violated team policy, and we really feel that there are certain standards that our guys need to live up to," Raiders head coach Steve Helminiak said by phone Friday night from Atherton. "If they don't live up to those standards, whether it's in a good season or a bad season, you have to make sure you're doing things the right way. So we had to suspend some guys."

The suspensions were made at the beginning of the week. Helminiak declined to specify what rules were broken.

The Raiders end the season next Saturday at Northwestern Oklahoma State.

"This is the last action you want to take, but sometimes you have to do it for the betterment of the team as a whole," said Helminiak.

Kammel, a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder, was in the midst of a redshirt season but volunteered to give up that option, said Helminiak.

"He felt it was for the betterment of the team, so he was willing to do it," said the coach. "I wouldn't have done it if Chris wasn't willing to take that step. It was not a decision I was going to make without Chris begin involved. I'm really proud of the fact he stood up for the team. And he's very excited to get this opportunity."

Kammel took all of the snaps with the first team in practice this week. He'd been the No. 2 quarterback and had gotten regular practice repititions after Mike McDonald, the starter at the beginning of the year, went down with a season-ending broken leg in the fourth game.

Kammel is ready for today's assignment, said Helminiak.

"You could see him getting much more comfortable with the offense," he said, referring to Kammel's extra work in recent weeks. "This week, I was very impressed with his poise and confidence. I just had a meeting with him and I feel like he's ready to play."

Kammel was the offensive player of the year in the Skyline Conference last season, when he passed for 2,734 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was also all-conference as a junior.

Sweeney, a junior, has completed 65 of 156 passes for 761 yards and three touchdowns. He's been intercepted seven times.

The junior Baldwin has rushed for 583 yards and six touchdowns.

Springer, a junior, is the No. 2 rusher with 120 yards and is tied for fourth in receiving with 11 catches.

The Raiders (2-6) are looking to avenge an earlier loss to Menlo (3-6). The Oaks scored a 20-13 victory over SOU on Sept. 25 in Ashland.

Since then, both teams have been in a tailspin.

Menlo has dropped five straight games, and the Raiders have lost six in a row.

In their first meeting, SOU led 13-3 going into the fourth quarter, but the Oaks scored 17 straight points.

Menlo has only scored 32 points over the last five games.

Helminiak said James Wheeler and Randy Fesser are keys to the defense.

Wheeler ranks fourth on the team with 40 tackles, two tackles-for-loss and an interception. Fesser has 35 tackles and two interceptions.

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