Raiders want to put fun back in football

ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University football coach Steve Helminiak is looking to make it fun again.

A week after his Raiders fell to 1-3 with a 31-23 setback to Willamette that included the second fourth-quarter letdown of the year, Helminiak is trying to change some attitudes.

"The guys are feeling too much pressure," Helminiak said. "They need to just relax and play the football. They need to have some fun. It doesn't mean we won't be coaching them or correct them if they make mistakes, but they need to go out and just play football."

The Raiders will take to the road for the third straight week Saturday when they visit Linfield (0-1). Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

After hearing Helminiak stress the importance of a running game, senior running back Marlon Rosales answered the call last week. Rosales went for a career-high 166 yards against Willamette.

"Rosie finally started getting vertical and it paid off," Helminiak said. "He was much more decisive. He made decisions, and when he did, he gained a lot of yards. It was a hell of a performance."

Helminiak was also impressed with the play of his offensive line.

"They've played really well all year," he said. "It's really impressive considering we have three new guys."

The Raiders have also discovered a weapon in senior kicker Corey O'Neill.

The former South Medford star is 7-for-7 in field goals and ranks first in the NAIA in percentage and second in field goals made.

"Having someone like Corey gives you more of a peace of mind," Helminiak said. "When you don't have to worry or think about the kicking game, that's a good thing."

Linfield enters this week with an 0-1 record after falling to Hardin-Simmons, 29-22, on Sept. 13.

"They are a tremendous program and they will be hungry with this being the home opener," Helminiak said.

In the Hardin-Simmons, game the Wildcats saw starting quarterback Aaron Boehme go down with an injury. Sophomore Cole Franklin came off the bench to complete 6 of 11 passes for 20 yards, and he also ran for 68 yards.

Linfield offensive coordinator and former Ashland High head coach Jim Nagel will have Franklin guiding the offense for the near future.

"Traditionally, they've been a really good passing team," Helminiak said. "With Franklin, he's a little more dangerous because he can run. Nagel does a good job of exploiting weaknesses."

Saturday will mark the 45th meeting between the two schools. Linfield has won six straight and 13 out of the last 15.

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