top of page
  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Go Bobcats!

Note: Sorry! The pictures aren't very good.

1924 CCHS Basketball Team

I only knew Earl Crees (second from left) and Augie Menzel (third from left).

They, along with Annie Hansen, were in the first class to graduate In 1924 from the Brick High School (pictured below). It served the students of Custer County for 50 years until the class of 1974 became the last class to graduate from it.

Much of our lives in the Valley, over the past half century, has been centered around Custer County School. Barb taught for thirty-two years  and was middle school / high school principle for ten years after that.

I taught high school for nine years and coached for twenty years. Coaching  included at times, boys and girls track, boys and girls basketball, and by default, I was the first CCHS girls volleyball team (1975-76)

Our new principal at the time, George Fee, decided to coach our inaugural volleyball season. After the second match he changed his mind. Being principal, he “recruited” me to take his place. I knew nothing about volleyball, and so 50 years later, I apologize to the brave girls who made up that first team, and put up with me for the entire rest of the season..

1975-76 CCHS First Volleyball Team

Barb and I were not in the Valley when the next two pictures were taken, however we knew most of the students, and I spoke at both baccalaureates (1975 and 1978) when they graduated.

The first picture is the class of 1975 when they were in first grade. Amy (Davis) Perschbacher, Patti (Byrne) Schulze, Russel Hartbauer, Gary Patterson, Jeanne (Copeland) Paxton, and Roy Dickens, all still live in the Valley. Helen Hibbs was their teacher. Barb and I taught with Helen her last few years before she retired.

The next picture is the (class of ’78) when they were in sixth grade. I taught many of them when they were in high school:  Bernie Byrne, Frank Shaw, Marla Beach, Vernon Collins, John Rusher, Lisa Dolby, Bonnie Kettle, Jerry Livengood, Nickie Kastendieck, Paul Copeland, Jeanne Porth, and Gary Henrich. I’m not sure, but I also think I recognize Bobbie Koch, Frankie Garner and Bev Wahl.

A  couple of years after this picture was taken, Barb replaced Mike Gardner as the sixth grade teacher. Several of the boys from this class were on the J.V. basketball team that I coached when they were sophomores (1975-76).

Beginning in 1977, and taking one year off, I coached Custer County girls’ basketball for thirteen years. In the 1980’s, we had four straight state

tournament appearances (1981-82-83-84) and seven straight league championships (1980-86)





During the 1988-89 season we won only two games. Our defense wasn’t bad, but we just didn’t have a lot of scoring power. However, this team was hardworking and they always showed up to do their best.

Our record meant that in the first round of tournament play we would meet Fowler, the number one team in the state, on their home court. Barb, and about six fans came to Fowler for the game.

What could I tell the team in my pregame locker room speech? Maybe some form of the “go, fight, win” pep talk? Or, that if we played hard, we could beat the Grizzlies? Should I lie to them in order to make them feel good, at least for a few minutes? Instead, I chose the truth.

I began like this: “Everyone in this locker room, and everyone in this gym knows that, barring a miracle, we are not going to win this game.” I then continued with a challenge, “…However, there is no way, tonight, that the

Fowler Grizzlies are going to score their average 76 points per game—not on us!”

We lost, but we held Fowler to twenty points under their average. For us, it was a victory, and we walked out of the gym with our heads held high. That night, I was as proud of that team as any I had coached. I hope I don’t embarrass these girls, but, I think they need to be named and recognized.


One year (1979 I think), while playing LaVeta, one of their girls became confused after a jump ball and shot at our basket three times in succession. She went 0-3. Their coach finally got time out called.

When our girls came into the huddle, they were laughing. I said, “I don’t know why you’re laughing at her. She shot at our basket three times, and you tried to block every shot.” Think about it!  I’m not sure, but I think I was looking at freshman center, Rita Berry, when I said this. Rita, along with Rhoda Rusher, and Jenny Wilson went on to earn all-state honors.

I also coached track for several years, and we had some excellent athletes. In 1983 Debbie Jobe won state in the 800 meters as a freshman. When Bob Kirby coached track after me, Camden Marold won state in the discus.

Track season in the Spring at 8000 feet elevation is an exiting venture. I remember seasons when we barely set foot on our track until just before the district meet.

One year the league meet was held at Cripple creek (Elevation 9500 ft.). Bernie Byrne ran high hurdles for us. It was snowing so hard for his race, that from the finish line, I couldn’t even see Bernie. the timers couldn’t see smoke from the starting gun, so they had to listen for the sound.

Once in the Jr. High division of the league meet, one of our runners handed off to Cripple Creek in the 400 meter relay. However, I’m not sure that this was a problem with visibility. After having a few words with our runner, Ralph Hey asked the Cripple Creek runner why he took the baton from someone with a different colored uniform. His response—“Well, he was ahead of our guy.”

We (not including myself) ran indoors, outdoors, in snow storms, dust storms, on dirt, cinder, and all-weather tracks. Other track adventures included the old square cornered track at Hoehne (or was it Primero) and the “suicide” hundred meter dash at Sangre De Cristo which was held in an open field with H.S. and Jr. High all running at the same time. Runners being tripped, pushed, spiked, and run over were just a few of the hazards of the event.

Boys Track-1978

Girls Track-1978

1996—First boy’s basketball team I coached


One of my best boys’ team was in 2003. I believe that our regular season record was 18-2

Coaching is one of those professions that often brings satisfaction as well as criticism. I received some of both. Overall I feel grateful to have known so many Custer County athletes, many of whom remain good friends today.

47 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

10 "Commandments" of Westcliffe

18 “Ten Commandments of Westcliffe” I used to tell my seniors in philosophy and government class that Change and progress are not necessarily the same thing. Change simply means different. “Progress i


bottom of page