The Southern Oregon University football team will conclude the first half of its spring slate Friday with a 6 p.m. scrimmage at Eagle Point High School.

The Southern Oregon University football team will conclude the first half of its spring slate Friday with a 6 p.m. scrimmage at Eagle Point High School.

The contest is free to attend, as is the camp that SOU's staff and players will orchestrate at 5 p.m. at EPHS. Boys and girls ages 5 and over are welcome to participate.

"We're about at the halfway point of the spring so we expect to have a good night, and we appreciate the support from people from all over the valley so it'll be fun to put on a show out there," Raiders head coach Craig Howard said.

The Raiders were No. 24 in the NAIA Spring Top 25 Poll that was released Tuesday by the national office. They were two spots removed from a ranking after concluding the 2013 season with a 7-4 record, but were the only team to move into the poll due in large part to their offense, which led the NAIA in points and yardage, returning all but one starter.

Howard noted the offense was relatively sharp in in SOU's first scrimmage last Friday, led by Austin Dodge's six touchdown passes — four of which went to Dylan Young. Defensive coordinator Berk Brown expected the challenge for a unit that lost four starters but will likely feature more new ones than that.

"This is the most athletic group we've had since I've been here, so as spring progresses we just want to get on the same page with communication," Brown said. "That's going to be the key to our success because athletically I don't think we're going to struggle with anyone.

"Our offense is a step ahead right now because they've been together for so long," he added, "but facing them every day is good for us because of the speed they move at and the situations they put you in."

Brown has been impressed by the leadership of Heston Altenbach, a fourth-year starter-to-be at defensive back who was in on 197 tackles during his first three seasons. Brown has been pleasantly surprised by the impact of back Le'Dontrae Gooden, who will be a redshirt-sophomore, and Kalan Hoedl, who will be a redshirt-freshman at nose guard. And he is excited about the return of Michael Bibbee, a transfer from Oregon State and starter on SOU's defensive line until he broke his foot during the fifth game of the season and never returned.

Throw in senior linebacker Laurence Calcagno, the team's leader in tackles, senior all-conference lineman Daniel Breaux and other underclassmen who played big roles last season like Austin Smith, Mylz Black and Monti Wilson, and the optimism seems warranted.

"We were so junior-heavy last year," Brown said. "But now, with those guys being seniors, their leadership is a great resource with as many new guys as we have."

Added Howard: "The defense is coming along, getting better all the time, and we're all excited to see the progress they've made on Friday."

Two Raiders who were Eagle Point graduates will be making a homecoming of sorts: senior linebacker Steven Josephson and redshirt-freshman linebacker Caleb Ash. The Raiders also signed two receivers from Eagle Point, Carlos Flores and Lucas Morris, who will be freshman in the fall.