November 08, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

What a way for the Mountaineers to end a rough season.

Southern Oregon, ranked seventh in the NAIA, visits Community Stadium for a 1 p.m. Saturday season-ender.

Eastern Oregon coach Rob Cushman thinks Southern (7-1) might be the best team the Mountaineers have faced all year, and Eastern (1-7) started the season with one of the toughest schedules in the country.

Theyve got a total package, the best of a lot of people weve played, Cushman said. Theyve got the Wisconsin-Whitewater offensive line, the Simon Fraser running back or better, the (Pacific Lutheran) quarterback, the Linfield defensive front.

Southern sophomore tailback Dusty McGrorty broke the schools single-season touchdown with his 20th and 21st touchdowns Saturday against Rocky Mountain. Quarterback Travis Mari has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,832 yards and 19 touchdowns.

The Mountaineers counter with a team fresh from its first win of the season, an 18-14, come-from-behind victory over Puget Sound.

We got the win off our back a week ago. Thats fortunate we dont have that pressure, Cushman said.

Eastern has had several close calls this season, from a one-touchdown loss to Willamette in the season opener to a one-point defeat at the hands of Whitworth two weeks ago. A few plays here and there and the Mountaineers could be 4-4.

Our guys believe we can go win, Cushman said. Its a big game for us to finish with and it would be a big feather in our cap.

For once this season, the Mountaineers are relatively healthy. Ruben Villa returns as quarterback and Mike Kyle should play at fullback. Senior defensive lineman Sven Wilson is still suffering from an ankle sprain but is expected to play in his last game.

Sophomore Aaron Hazel and freshman Brian Morriss led Eastern against Puget Sound. Hazel, who started the season as the third-string quarterback, completed 7-of-17 passes for 121 yards and ran for a touchdown before throwing for another. Morriss gained 132 yards on 19 carries.

Morriss gave a sign of the Mountaineers future.

He was a guy that we knew when we recruited him that he could be a quality player that would make an impact, Cushman said.