- Associated Press - Friday, November 21, 2014

RIFLE, Colo. (AP) - The guy in the bleachers wearing a Rifle Bears ball cap isn’t just any old coot watching a football game.

He’s Ted Diaz, and he hasn’t missed a home Rifle Bears high school football game in 62 years.

And at 92 years old, he has no intention of missing one this year, either.

The sixth-seeded Bears (11-1 overall) face off against the 10th-seeded Fort Morgan Mustangs (10-2) in the Class 3A semifinals for a berth in the state championship game on Nov. 29. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Bears Stadium in Rifle, with the winner moving on to play either top-seeded Discovery Canyon out of Colorado Springs or fifth-seeded Pueblo East.

Diaz isn’t a Rifle High School graduate. In fact, he’s not a high school graduate at all. Born in Delta, Diaz moved with his family to Rifle in 1931. He attended the old school house in Peach Valley and elementary school in Silt.

“I didn’t go to high school,” he said. “I had to stay on the farm and work.”

After two years of serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he took a job as a custodian and a bus driver for the Re-2 school district.

“I was a custodian for 22 years and drove the bus for 25 years,” he recalls with a smile.

For 44 years, Diaz was part of the chain gang in charge of the “downmarkers” at the football field, which was at the location of Rifle Middle School now. The only prolonged break he had during that time - which began in 1938 - was the two-year span he spent serving in the military during the war.

When he was around, he attended every football game, became hooked and hasn’t missed a game since 1952.

And he still goes early to mark his seat to make sure he has a good spot, which he said typically is the same spot right around the 40-yard line.

“If you don’t mark it, you don’t know where you’re going to sit,” Diaz said with a laugh. “You have to do that since there are so many people at each game.”

Diaz remembers former players - who are now parents and grandparents. And he remembers his own days playing sports himself, which include baseball, basketball and football.

But it’s the kids that make him come out week after week to watch the team play.

“It makes me proud,” he said. “I’m glad that I’ve been able to live this long to see them in first grade and now in high school.”

As for this year’s Rifle Bears football team, Diaz says they may be small, but they’re quick and they’re fast.

“They may be one of the greatest teams we’ve ever had here,” he said. “This year’s been a better running team than I’ve seen for a long time.”

So what’s his favorite part of the game?

“Every time they go down the field for a touchdown,” Diaz said with a big smile. “That’s my favorite part.”

And if the Rifle Bears make it to the state championship game, you can bet the old coot you see in the bleachers will be Ted Diaz.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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