Forced out as the head football coach at Eagle Point High in January, Jacob Schauffler wasn't sure what direction he would go in the early aftermath...
Sometimes you can make all the plans you want, then life comes along and turns it all upside down.
Take the case of Eagle Point senior Zack Reed for example.
It may come as a surprise to some but we often plan out our feature stories to coincide with big upcoming events. Other times it's about striking while the iron is hot.
In the case of Reed, each of those factors came to the forefront early last week when I decided to do a feature story on the 6-foot-8 basketball standout as his team prepared to take on Class 5A Southern Oregon Hybrid foe Ashland tonight at Eagle Point High.
In his third season at the varsity level, everything has seemed to come together for Reed. He entered Saturday's game with Hidden Valley averaging 16 points and eight rebounds, and such increased productivity is a main reason why the Eagles (11-7) stand seventh in the 5A power rankings and eighth in the coaches poll.
I was able to sneak in interviews with first-year EP head coach Bryan Wood and Reed during an off night for the Eagles on Friday and was to use some of Saturday's shift to write about Reed's rise during his senior season.
Those story plans, however, were altered greatly while I was out getting my dinner. When I left, the story involved a young man's growing confidence and an aggressive new outlook on playing the game of basketball. When I returned, the story was drastically different because of what transpired in the game against Hidden Valley.
With good friend and star post Tyrone Holmes away on a football recruiting visit to Montana, Reed was looking to pick up the slack and continue his hot trend when he tipped away a pass on defense, chased it down and went up for a first-quarter dunk. Everything turned dark from there, however, as he was upended in midair by a Hidden Valley player and tried to catch himself on the rim. Unfortunately, he wound up flipping upside down, falling to the court in stunning fashion.
"I just went up for a dunk and the guy just came up behind me and kinda ran into me and I couldn't hold onto the rim any longer I guess and let go," said Reed. "When you have lot of momentum like that your feet swing, and I was waiting for them to swing back under me but with a person behind me, it knocked me off the rim. I fell on my upper back and then my head hit and I guess I put my hand back behind me to brace my fall."
The result of the play was a concussion for Reed, with his CT scan coming back clear, and at least three fractures in his right (shooting) hand.
Where Reed's story was one of hope for the future, it's been replaced by a sad turn of events that has put his season in doubt.
"He was pretty special with what he's been doing," Wood said late Saturday night after leaving Reed's side at the hospital.
Since his swollen right hand is two or three times the size of its mate, Reed said doctors aren't exactly sure how badly it's broken. He's set to go in for another CT scan today for his hand and will have it put in a cast once the swelling goes down. The headache he had in the hours that followed Saturday's incident has gone away, as well as some of the "woe is me" feeling.
"I think I worried more in the beginning and then I kinda got to the point where there's nothing I can do about it and might as well try to be as positive as I can about the situation," he said Monday.
In a best-case scenario, Reed said he'll be in a cast for three weeks and then move to a splint that will allow some freedom of movement for his fingers and potentially get him back on the court for a postseason run.
"I'm just hoping I can get back and be of some use to my team for the playoffs," he said.
That's good news down the road for the Eagles, whose optimistic playoff hopes had been set in motion by Reed's emergence as a potent complement to Holmes and Eagle Point's host of returning players.
"Zack has been tremendous," Wood said prior to the injury. "Every game, every practice he approaches with intensity and he's just getting better and better every day. We believe in him and we trust him to go out and play and I think he's just kinda buying into what he's really capable of doing."
Reed, who grew 8 inches to 6-4 between the seventh and eighth grades, primarily was a junior varsity player as a freshman but dressed down for the varsity games. His playing time increased steadily over the following two seasons but there was always the sense that Reed was capable of supplying much more to his team. Under Wood, he's been able to realize his potential, and he's always had the support of his teammates to be more aggressive out on the floor.
"He always had that in practice but he never really brought it into the game," said Holmes, "but he's been playing with that confidence this season and I'm just really proud of him. I just think it's awesome that he's been able to work hard and get better so quickly."
"I just hope he's OK because it would really suck to put in all the work he has for his senior season and have it be over just like that," added Holmes, who is also averaging 16 points and eight rebounds.
Wood couldn't help but agree, noting how everything has come together this season for Reed and that it would be a shame for him to not be allowed to see it through.
"He can shoot the 3-pointer, he can hit the mid-range shot, he can finish around the rim and he runs the floor really well," said Wood. "He can do just about anything. It's all just about intensity and confidence with him."
Reed and Holmes have been able to play off one another this season and made it difficult for teams to double-team one or the other. Combined with the prolific play of guards Jonathan Bolston (17 points per game) and Garrett Snow (10 ppg) and the steady guidance of point guard Cesar Chavez, who has a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, the Eagles have been able to compete with some of the state's best.
Losing Reed for the rest of the regular season would certainly put a crimp in their competitive edge, but their body of work thus far could still help carry them to a better playoff path than in previous years. In a change made prior to this season, playoff qualification is no longer tied to conference finish; all that matters is the final power ranking.
That's one reason why Wood and company aren't making anything more out of tonight's home game against Ashland — the first of three 5A SOH meetings between the two — than any other regular-season game.
"For us, the way everything is actually structured this year, those games are really no more important than any game that we play because it's all based on power rankings this year," said Wood. "A league title doesn't give you any advantages. Whether you're first in league or fifth in league in 5A, it's not going to matter."
Having Reed available come playoff time, however, most certainly will matter for the Eagles.
"I'm just praying that he'll be OK," said Holmes, echoing the feeling throughout Eagle Point.