Steve Helminiak's effort to bring more home games to Southern Oregon is paying off.




The SOU football team will play at least nine regular season games in 2008 and four will be at Raider Stadium. Both those numbers still may go up, too, as Helminiak, the Raiders' head coach since 2005, looks to fill three more open dates.




The schedule, announced by the school Monday, includes the usual rivalry games against Humboldt State (Sept. 6, at Ashland), Western Oregon (Oct. 11, at Ashland) and Linfield (Sept. 27, at McMinnville), plus Mary Hardin-Baylor's first-ever trip to Ashland on Oct. 25 and a money game at Sacramento State on Sept. 13.




The season-opener is Aug. 28, a Thursday, at Montana Tech. SOU's home-opener is the following week against the Lumberjacks.




"I think it's a tough schedule," said Helminiak, who guided the Raiders to their first winning season (5-4) since 2003 last year. "There are no gimmes on the schedule and we've got to be ready to go every week."




The open dates are Oct. 4, Nov. — and Nov. 8. Helmiak, who formulates the schedule along with SOU athletic director Dennis Francois, said those openings could be filled soon.




"We're actually in talks with teams for every one of those dates," he said. "It's just a matter of finalizing it. Once we do, we'll release those as well &

I hope in the next week or two weeks at the most."




The Raiders, who played three home games in 2007, are aiming to schedule two of those possible three games at home, Helminiak added.




Southern Oregon fans will be able to get an early look at the 2008 Raiders on May — at the team's annual Red and Black spring game. The scrimmage, to be played at Raider Stadium, gives coaches a chance to see which players are ready to contribute on a regular basis.




"You want to find out who is going to step up and become a player for you next season, which of those (redshirt freshmen) is going to step up and become an impact guy," Helminiak said. "You want to have an idea coming out of spring who you are going to be looking to count on in the fall."




2008 Schedule




DateOpponent




Aug. 28at Montana Tech




Sept. 6HUMBOLDT STATE




Sept. 13at Sacramento State




Sept. 20at Willamette




Sept. 27at Linfield




Oct. 11WESTERN OREGON




Oct. 18AZUSA PACIFIC




Oct. 25MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR




Nov. 15at Eastern Oregon




Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.