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Coach and Us: Fly High, Kyle

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Kyle Ediger passed on many lessons in his time as a Hampton math teacher and in his nearly three years as the boys basketball coach.

On Friday night — in a Hampton gym so full that it looked more like they were top-ranked in Class D-2 and not a 5-win team — Kyle somehow found official Randy Coil’s shoulder during a timeout. 

There was 10.8 seconds left. Hampton was clinging to a 39-38 lead over rival Giltner and senior Drake Schafer had one free throw remaining. 

Coil jumped behind the Hampton bench, coming directly to principal Brad Feik and superintendent Holly Herzberg. 

“No matter how this turns out,” he said, wisdom the Hawks may have received from their coach, “you should be very proud of these kids.”

Schafer made his free throw and Hampton led 40-38. The rest was the lesson as Giltner sophomore Cooper Reeson hit a left wing three to beat the Hawks, 41-40, as time expired. 

Senselessly, Kyle Ediger was taken from this Earth late on Tuesday night. Hours after his boys — the kids he was trying to teach life through basketball — sent him out a winner against Dorchester. 

Hampton guard Drake Schafer dribbles the ball in the first half against Giltner on Friday night. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

Life doesn’t make sense sometimes and last week in Hampton it sure didn’t. 

But one thing never seemed to be in doubt. 

That the Hawks would play Giltner on Friday night, and they’d do so with a community behind them and that it would be with a maximum effort on Senior Night.

If you go to school in Hampton, the one team you don’t really want to lose to is Giltner. The feeling is mutual. But they are also your friends. If you didn’t play against each other on Friday night, you met up at Pizza Hut in Aurora for breadsticks and a Mountain Dew. 

At least that is how it was in the 1990s. Judging by Schafer’s post game hug with Nate Leichty at center court after the game on Friday my best guess is that mutual respect remains. 

You could see it too, in Herzberg telling me the Giltner staff provided breakfast for the entire Hampton staff on Thursday morning. You could see it in Scott Dangler’s purple tie that he wore for the game on Friday night. 

Yes, if there was a team that was to be played on Friday night it was Giltner. And, forever, the results — Hampton’s girls got a 52-36 win — will be just a footnote. 

It was a first step in healing.

Giltner coach Scott Dangler sports a purple tie on Friday night as he discusses a call with official Craig Rupp. Officials Rupp, Randy Coil and Gregg Holliday donated their game checks to a memorial for Hampton coach Kyle Ediger. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

Jan Ediger — Kyle’s mom — points my way before the Hawks tip off and there is little to say other than “sorry.” We shared a hug. But I added that “I wish I knew Kyle more.”

Kyle wasn’t even in school when I graduated from Hampton in 1994. But Jan was teaching with my mom and when you graduate you are always a Hawk. 

Some of my best memories of Kyle, I said, we’re from his senior year, when I made a few trips to Hampton to cover football and basketball teams that were very successful. 

Those 2008 Hawk seniors made the state football playoff quarterfinals. In basketball they helped our coach, Jerry Eickhoff, set the state basketball win record. 

Kyle, I remembered and what our coach confirmed to me Friday night, was a sort of glue that held those teams together. 

“Great work ethic,” coach Eickhoff said. “Better teammate. He’d box out, and was one of our strongest players. He could rebound, would sprint to the block every time. Always took good shots.

“He was very selfless, he did whatever it took for his team to win.”

In teaching and coaching, you could tell the pride in Jan Ediger’s voice in speaking about not only her son, but her co-worker. This was also evident in the hugs she received after the game on Friday.

“Those boys meant everything to him,” she tells me. “He bought a lot of the shoes those boys are wearing out there. He would buy them meals on the way home from games if they needed money.”

Sure, Kyle Ediger was trying to be a basketball coach, but sometimes life needs to come first. Herzberg saw it daily. 

“This year, he was teaching kids how to tie a tie,” she said. “He wanted them to be successful people, so this year they would dress up on game days, which they had not done before.”

His boys would have to tie them one more time on Saturday morning, when they laid their leader to his final rest. 

Carson Klute delivers pre-game instruction to the Hampton Hawks prior to their game with Giltner on Friday. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

On Friday night, Carson Klute is somewhere he didn’t expect to be earlier in the week. He’s the Hampton basketball coach, with Ediger’s assistants Jared Dose and Derrick Forbis. 

He’s been trying to build the football program back at his alma mater, just like Ediger was in basketball. 

I ask him to share what people should know about Kyle Ediger. The list turned out to be too long to print and maybe that’s all people need to know about the Hampton math teacher and basketball coach. 

The ties come up. The “basketball fund” comes up. That they would share a Mountain Dew before a game. That Kyle was always the last one to leave school. That his players’ grades meant more to him than how they shot free throws. 

But it was more important than that. 

“He loved his fiancé Heather and her son Knox,” Klute tells me. “He loved that Knox was getting into basketball. He loved his family — his parents and brothers and their families were everything to him.”

That he was trying to build a program where everyone had a role. “We once had nine players and 12 managers,” Klute said.

That he would do anything for anyone. “I am not sure I have ever met anyone who would drop anything at a moment’s notice to help another person out.”

Kyle and Carson were at a baby shower last Saturday when a basement game of poker broke out. Kyle was the big winner. The soon to be dad has a final message from his friend. 

“I left all the money in the baby’s crib,” it said. 

“I don’t know that I could say anything that describes Kyle more than that,” Carson Klute tells me. 

Do what is right. Work hard. Dress for success. Give yourself to the team and others. Love more than you are asked. 

Last week a community got to share what they knew about a teacher, a coach, a friend because of a tragic ending to a life. 

For the people that knew Kyle Ediger and for those of us who learned of his impact, it’s our responsibility to keep his memory alive. To pass on his lessons. To let him watch us with a smile on his face.

Fly high, coach. Fly high. 

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