Observer staff

The Eastern Oregon football team used a suffocating defensive effort to down rival Southern Oregon and get back in the thick of the Frontier Conference race.

The No. 24 Mountaineers forced three interceptions, collected four sacks and held the No. 7 Raiders to their lowest offensive output since 2015 with a 27-17 road win Saturday in Ashland.

“Great day to be a Mountie,” EOU Head Coach Tim Camp said. “Anytime you beat a top 10 team and instate rival you feel proud.”

It marked the fourth time in the last six years that EOU has won at SOU, joining road victories in 2013, 2014 and 2016. It also marked the 10th time in the last 13 games the road team has won in the series.

Zackary Jacobs, Eli Teuteu and Haziel Ledezma each had interceptions for the Mountaineers, and Isaiah Cranford totaled 3-1/2 sacks as he and the Mountaineers constantly pressured SOU quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson and his backup Chase Knutz.

Both teams hit first half field goals and went into halftime even at 3-3. Eastern Oregon kicker Nathan Harden hit a 29-yard field goal early in the third quarter for a 6-3 lead, then the Mountaineer offense woke up. Victor Dias capped an eight-play drive with a one-yard run, and Kai Quinn followed with a 76-yard run for a 20-3 lead with 2:01 to play in the third.

Southern’s Isaac Hurd and Eastern’s T.J. Hancock traded 31-yard touchdown receptions in the fourth quarter, which made the score 27-10. SOU attempted to stage a late rally on Jason Shelley’s 95-yard kickoff return with 2:22 left. The Raiders followed by recovering the ensuing onside kick, but drew no closer.

Quinn finished with 216 yards passing and a touchdown, though he was just 16-for-40 passing. He also had 86 yards rushing, and Dias added 83 yards on the ground. Hancock and Kelly were Quinn’s favorite receivers with 88 and 82 yards, respectively.

The EOU defense, meanwhile, allowed just 306 total yards — and 86 rushing — to the Raiders. SOU was held to its lowest offensive total since scoring 14 points in the 2015 national title game against Marian, Indiana. Hutchinson had 160 yards passing and 49 rushing.

The Mountaineers (4-2 overall, 4-2 Frontier) who are now part of a three-way tie for second with Rocky Mountain and SOU, host Montana Tech Saturday.