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Southern Oregon wins its first NAIA national championship

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon traveled across the continent and is coming home with its first national championship. The Raiders topped Marian (Ind.) 55-31 in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Saturday.

"We fulfilled a dream because the players bought in," Southern Oregon coach Craig Howard told the Associated Press. "These guys have done everything we asked, and I promised these guys they would leave Southern Oregon with a degree and a national championship."

Southern Oregon rode its prolific offense - the Raiders averaged 51.5 points per game in their four playoff wins - to the title, as quarterback and NAIA National Player of the Year Austin Dodge completed 21-of-39 passes for 429 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Marian quarterback Hayden Northern matched Dodge yard-for-yard and touchdown-for-touchdown, throwing for 495 yards and four touchdowns, but was undone by six interceptions.

"The turnovers were big," Marian coach Mark Henninger said. "We probably left 21 points on the board in the first half. Playing against a team like Southern Oregon, you can't turn the ball over like that and you can't miss tackles like we did."

Marian held a 571-495 yardage advantage and a 27-17 edge in first downs, but was undone by a 6-1 turnover deficit.

Southern Oregon led 24-7 through one quarter - aided by a pick-six of Northern - and 38-10 at the half. Marian out-scored the Raiders 14-0 in the third quarter but never pulled closer than 14 points in the second half.

Southern Oregon finishes the season at 13-2 with wins over No. 9 MidAmerica Nazarene, No. 1 Carroll College, No. 3 Saint Xavier and No. 7 Marian en route to the crown.

Congrats to head coach Craig Howard, offensive coordinator and NAIA Coordinator of the Year finalist Ken Fasnacht and the rest of the staff for the national title.