It’s in their blood

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Allen Kelley of Clovis proudly displays his season tickets for the upcoming Wildcats football season. Kelley is the uncle of Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley and been a fan of all the Wildcat teams since 1958.

Sharna Johnson

Allen Kelley might just be more excited than area teens to see the school year — and high school football season — begin.

For 53 years Kelley, 73, has been attending Clovis High School football games religiously.

Tonight area teams are kicking off the season with first games — 7 p.m. for Clovis, Clovis Christian and Portales high schools.

But Kelley and his wife Helen don’t just attend football games, they go to most all of the high school sports events, including volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball, Little League and more.

“I’ve been going a long time. We enjoy it, me and the wife do, and the kids,” he said.

“Since back in the 50s we’ve gotten season tickets to everything … I tell people if you’re gonna get along in Clovis, New Mexico, do whatever the schools (are) doing.”

Sandra Brownlow coordinates CHS athletic events, including ticket sales.

She said the Wildcats have a lot of faithful football fans that buy reserved tickets each year. There are 1,000 seats reserved for the season and she said most all of them sell out each year.

“There’s different reasons (people go to games). I think for some, people do it for just the entertainment, just to have something to do and then other people bleed purple,” she said.

Kelley said he just likes to attend the sporting events.

Football is still probably his favorite, though he said as the years have passed, the weather has started to take its toll on him.

“I enjoy the football games this time of year but by the time football gets to the end, I’m getting too old to be sitting out in the cold and I’m ready for the basketball to start,” he said.

“If I get cold, my knees really hurt. I don’t enjoy the end of football (season) as much as I used to because of that one thing.”

Since 1967, Kelley said they have only missed two state basketball tournaments and have taken many trips following their hometown teams to out of town games.

In fact, while growing up in the Kelley household, tournaments served as the family vacation, said his daughter La Shauna Kelley-James.

“My dad farmed when I was growing up. … We couldn’t go on summer vacations, so our vacation was the state basketball tournament in Albuquerque,” she said with a laugh.

“I was born in 1969 and I was at my first state basketball tournament in 1970 … they did definitely burn me out.”

And the Kelleys didn’t just involve their children over the years, they still go to games with their friends Fred and Dorris Eichenberger.

“They are four of the most, if not the most, devoted fans. If they can’t get to the out of town games, they go and support the surrounding communities. If there’s a ball game within a 50-mile radius, they’re at it,” Kelley-James said.

They aren’t the only ones with lingering school spirit. At any given Farwell game, attendees may spot kindergarten teacher Ruth Anne Bennett wrapped in her Farwell Steers blanket.

And if they don’t see her, there’s a good chance they might hear her.

“I have a small plastic megaphone that helps save my voice a little bit and sometimes I use my little cow bell,” she said sheepishly.

“I want to be supportive of the children outside of academics as well as encouraging them academically in the classroom. I feel like we should support the community in whatever way we can.”

Bennett has been attending Farwell athletic events since she can remember, having graduated from there in 1970.

After 26 years teaching at Farwell schools, she said she knows most of the students.

“I try to be at every home game. I’m pretty much booked. If there’s not (a game) I’ll go see a grandchild,” she said.

In Portales, Bill Parson is known as Rams’ greatest fan.

Whether he’s sitting with the band during the games — he’s been named an honorary band member — marching with them in a parade, or breaking out across the field to wave a flag in celebration of a scored touchdown, Parson has become a part of PHS sports events.

“We call him ‘Wild Bill.’ He never misses a game,” said Portales football coach Mark McAfee.

“Everything is so positive with him. It’s neat, it’s really neat.”

Parson said though he didn’t attend PHS, “I wish I did.”

He has been attending games since 1982 when his nephew played sports at the school.

“I try to go to all the different sports when I can. I just like cheering along, watching them play,” he said. “Some of the boys that are playing football now I remember when their dads or uncles played … I’ve seen good seasons and I’ve seen bad seasons.”

Parson said on rare occasions when he can’t make it to a game, he listens on the radio.