HAVRE, Mont. — The inevitable happened Saturday on a frigid afternoon at Blue Pony Stadium. Seventh-ranked Southern Oregon is one win away from completing the Frontier Conference's first unbeaten slate since 2010.
Now 9-0 for the first time in team history, the Raiders were the latest team to wallop last-place Montana State-Northern, 38-17. They used the opportunity — surrounded by snow, playing in temperatures that never got out of the teens and were sub-zero factoring in wind chill — to accumulate their best rushing numbers of the season, totaling 209 yards on 46 carries. Rey Vega netted a career-high 173 ground yards on 12 tries, including touchdowns of five yards in the first quarter and 80 in the third, and Austin May ran up 82 yards on 20 carries.
SOU became a lock to appear in the NAIA Championship Series for the seventh time in team history and the fourth time since joining the Frontier in 2012, securing the conference's outright title and its automatic bid. Montana Tech, which the Raiders will visit in the regular-season finale next week, took its third loss at The College of Idaho and likely fell out of contention for an at-large bid.
The Lights (1-9, 0-9 Frontier) were limited to 183 yards on 68 plays from scrimmage, the lowest total for an SOU opponent since it last matched up with the them in 2016. They've lost 17 conference games in a row dating back to last season.
Zay Taylor picked off a pass, Masi Tunoa forced and recovered a fumble, and Keegan Lawrence had a team-high nine tackles in helping SOU keep a ninth straight foe from reaching 30 points for the first time since 1982.
The Raiders led 31-0 by halftime. It was the fifth time this year they'd been up by at least three touchdowns at the break.
One minute into the game, Bronsen Ader took a sweep seven yards into the end zone to put them up for good. Two minutes later, Vega's first score made it 14-0.
Ader recorded 121 reception yards on four catches, his fifth 100-yard game of the year, and Jordan Suell caught four passes for 72 yards. Quarterback Tanner Trosin finished with 276 passing yards on 16-of-26 accuracy and a nine-yard rushing TD in the second quarter, while backup Wyatt Hutchison threw the first TD pass of his career on a 45-yard connection with Jason Shelley at the end of the second quarter.