KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the first time since the NAIA moved to one division in 1997, two teams enter the season tied atop the NAIA Football Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Monday. Defending national champion Southern Oregon and national runner-up Marian (Ind.) share the post, with the Raiders grabbing eight first-place votes and 304 points, while the Knights collected five first-place votes and 304 points.
Southern Oregon enters the year looking to build off a historical 2014 campaign that concluded with the Raiders winning their first-ever NAIA national title. Prior to last season, Southern Oregon had never advanced past the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Series.
The Raiders return six starters on offense and seven on defense, highlighted by junior running back Melvin Mason and junior wide receiver Matt Retzlaff. Mason ran for 1,013 yards and 17 touchdowns last season with seven of those scores coming during the playoffs. Retzlaff was a key cog in Southern Oregon’s top-ranked passing attack with 56 catches for 785 yards and six touchdowns en route to Second Team All-Frontier Conference accolades in 2014. Continue reading