Football coach honored as granddaughter is involved in tragic accident

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by Claudia Johnson

It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Keith Hensler had taken his Mukwonago High School football team to the state championship in 2004. Friday, the school honored Hensler with a stadium that bares his name.

"You think of Mukwonago Football, you think of Coach Hensler, he affected a tremendous amount of lives," coach Clay Iverson said.

Across the country, in Lincoln City, Oregon, Hensler's family was also celebrating. They were on vacation at the beach, but as children dug deep holes in the sand, tragedy struck.

"We heard screaming from the beach and at first we thought, just kids...but then we heard screaming and screaming and screaming," witness Tracey Dudley said.

Hensler's 9-year-old granddaughter Isabel Grace Franks was trapped. Rescue crews desperately worked to free the young girl.

"Well, the people were digging and digging and digging and it looked like the sand kept collapsing," Dudley said.

Isabel would not survive. News traveled to Hensler, right in the middle of the celebration and football game. As players and families learned of the tragic  circumstances, they switched the focus from raising money for the field, to doing everything they could to support the family. A planned silent auction was held, but now in Isabel's memory. Hensler's lessons as coach to players came back full circle as they mourned for their favorite coach.

"When a tragedy like this hits, it puts everything back into perspective, so what we instructed our players to do was to put the stuff away, go home, hug the people they love, and be thankful for what they have," Iverson said.

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