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Eagles' Atler gets off on the wrong foot

A couple weeks into the baseball season, Eagle Point head coach Rob Cowden had high hopes for Tyler Atler helping his Eagles break out of their playoff drought.

The junior had already shown considerable promise on the mound with two solid appearances against Henley and Grants Pass after a good summer in American Legion play.

All those high hopes, however, were dashed in late March. That's when Atler attended a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet.

It sounds innocent enough, but that appearance set off a series of events that left Atler on crutches and Cowden shaking his head in utter disbelief.

"He was looking like he was going to be one of our top pitchers and might have been our most consistent up to that point," said Cowden. "And then he goes and has this freak accident."

Atler was able to make it through the banquet completely healthy. No tripping when he went to the dessert table, not even a bruise when mixing his way through the other outdoorsmen on hand.

Once he got back to his family's motel room, well that's another matter.

Atler had just taken off his shoes when the unlikely happened and he dropped a hunting knife he'd been holding. His luck got worse moments later when the knife not only fell on his big toe, it hit in such a precise way that it completely severed the tendon in his toe.

"Obviously it was meant to happen," said Cowden. "What are the chances of a kid dropping a knife on your big toe, and on your plant foot no less? It couldn't just hit the side of his foot to make him just get stitches or something, it had to fall directly on top and cut the tendon in half. Unbelievable."

There's a chance Atler could return to the Eagles later this season should everything heal accordingly, but Cowden said the greater likelihood is that Atler will need time to heal properly so he can make an impact for EP next season.

"I've already told him, though, that we're going to put him in a glass bubble until then," said the fifth-year coach.

For the record, the mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. There are chapters throughout North America, including a handful in Oregon.

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CRATER FOOTBALL coach John Beck had a run-in with Jon Gruden this past weekend at a coaches clinic at the University of Oregon, and survived.

All jokes aside, Beck said he was completely blown away with the opportunity to meet and hear from Gruden, who is as known for his fiery demeanor as he is for leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl victory in the 2002-03 season.

Gruden was in Eugene as one of three guest speakers for the clinic, which also included presentations by Oregon's Mark Helfrich (offensive coordinator), Don Pellum (linebackers), Jim Radcliffe (strength and conditioning) and head coach Chip Kelly.

"What a great guy, I mean gee whiz," Beck said Monday of Gruden. "He's just real personable and probably one of the most intense guys I've ever met. He loves football now, loves it. I don't know if there's much outside of football for him. He was pretty cool."

Beck said he and Gruden opened up a little small talk after the current ESPN Monday Night Football commentator mistook the "C" logo Beck was wearing for that of the Chicago Bears. When informed that it, in fact, was for Crater, Beck said Gruden responded, "Hey Crater, don't you have a lake by you guys?"

Beck said Gruden then asked what kind of offense the Comets were running, and that led to conversations about how Gruden had previously been in Alabama and how much more traditional that offense was than what he was learning about at Oregon.

"He watched the whole Oregon practice," said Beck. "And he said what he does is he takes teams he wants to learn more about and get knowledge on and he researches them and that's how he got hooked up in Oregon."

Beck said Gruden particularly was intrigued by the Ducks after they rushed for 47 touchdowns in 2008. They ran for 38 TDs last season.

While the coaching clinics were informative and the tempo of Oregon's practices was "unbelievable," the highlight of the weekend for Beck might have been when he found himself next to Gruden.

"I'm taller than Gruden, and I was happy to see that," Beck, who is 5-foot-10, said with a chuckle. "I'm not in his league coaching-wise, but I'm taller."

"What a good guy, though," added the Crater head coach. "He shook hands with everybody and talked with everybody, it didn't matter who it was. He just loves getting around football and was just really professional."

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ASHLAND'S ALLISON GIDA has been selected to compete for the Oregon girls team in the 17th annual Northwest Shootout, which pits senior standouts from Oregon against their peers from Washington in boys and girls all-star games.

The games will be played April 17 at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus. The girls game starts at 4 p.m., followed by the boys game at 6.

Gida, a 5-foot-10 point guard, averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 6.1 steals, 4.4 assists and shot 58 percent from the floor for the Grizzlies. The Utah-bound standout was a first-team all-state selection after leading Ashland to a fifth-place showing at the 5A state tournament.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com