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Cooley left his mark at Ashland

Ashland High head football coach Jim Nagel planned to give Russ Cooley a call over the next few days and ask him to rejoin the staff as the team's defensive line coach.

Cooley retired as a teacher and coach at Ashland last year, bought a fifth-wheel trailer and had planned to do some traveling with his wife, Linda.

But football was in Cooley's blood and Nagel hoped he could coax him back to the Grizzly sideline one more time.

That prospect vanished Saturday, however, when Cooley died of complications following back surgery.

He was 54.

"He had the back surgery last Tuesday and that part went fine," Nagel said. "But later in the week he started having difficulties and then Saturday things went bad. His blood pressure dropped, his heart rate went up, his breathing began to labor and then his organs shut down.

"And before they could do any exploratory surgery, his heart gave way."

An autopsy is scheduled for later this week.

While Nagel is credited with turning Ashland football into one of the state's premier programs, Cooley made his own footprint with the boys in the trenches.

A taskmaster with a keen sense of humor, Cooley had a way of getting his players to work hard and have fun at the same time.

"He was a no-nonsense coach for the most part, but there would be times when you'd see his linemen catching passes or having sliding contests in a mud hole," Nagel said. "The kids loved and respected him."

Fellow Grizzly line coach Tim Brown echoed that sentiment.

"He knew when to chew a kid out and when to put his arm around him and tell him that he loved him," Brown said. "He was a great guy and a great coach.

"Losing him is like losing a brother."

Cooley's linemen were rarely the biggest or strongest in the Southern Oregon Conference, but they made up for any shortcomings with their quickness, tenacity and superior technique.

And none of Cooley's linemen were better than his son, Travis, a member of the 1989 and '91 state championship teams who went on to a fine career at Navy.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Walter A. Phillips Field. The public is invited.

It's rare for a school

to win six or seven district championships during one school year.

But in one month?

North Medford wrapped up Southern Oregon Conference titles in boys and girls tennis, baseball and softball on Saturday. Five days earlier, its boys golf team won the SOC district tournament and is in contention at the Class 4A state tournament, which wraps up today at Langdon Farms in Aurora.

Now comes the Black Tornado boys and girls track teams, which both have reasonable shots to win SOC crowns when the district meet kicks off Thursday and concludes Saturday at Bowerman Field. The North boys are the defending champions while the girls won the title in 2000.

Grants Pass High track

coach Roger Stewart was hoping that pole vaulter Victor Daugherty would help run a junior varsity meet at Russ Werner Field on Saturday.

Instead, Daugherty helped a friend celebrate her birthday at Indian Mary Park.

the end of the day, Daugherty was being hailed a hero after pulling a drowning young girl from the Rogue River. Daugherty hustled into the frigid waters to rescue Sydney Spooner, 7, who had fallen in after trying to fetch her shoe.

A couple of adults were turned back by the 50-degree water, but Daugherty, the No. 2-ranked vaulter in the SOC with a mark of 14 feet, 6 inches, was unfazed. James Bird, 20, of Redding, Calif., also jumped in but it was Daugherty who located the youngster and pulled her to shore.

Spooner coughed up water and her lips were blue when rescued, but she made a full recovery.

"I'm sure he (Daugherty) just blocked out how cold the water was," Stewart says. "He's a young guy who's in shape. I'm sure he didn't think twice about jumping in."

Reach reporter at 776-4469, or e-mail