ENGLEWOOD — Forty two minutes before kickoff, he strode onto the field, his trademark ballcap fixed low just above his eyes and a gym bag slung over his left shoulder.
A staff member wished him luck.
"Thank you," he said in a genuine tone, but didn't break stride.
Kent Denver football coach Scott Yates had made 372 versions of this walk. He'd returned a victor 299 times.
On early Friday afternoon, with the sun at his back, he did not look like a coach on the verge of a 300th victory.
Yates went through his typical pregame routine of walking among his players with hands alternatively placed on his hips or folded in front of his chest.
He then calmly walked to his position on the sideline during the game, where he watched his Sun Devils, top-ranked in Class 2A, handle No. 10 Faith Christian.
And, after a 35-0 victory on Friday, Yates walked away from Justin DeSorrento Memorial Field on the campus at Kent Denver with No. 300 in his pocket.
"It's not a one-guy deal. That's all there is to it," said Yates, ever humble. "The school's been great. The program has been a lot of fun. And the coaches and the kids that we've had the pleasure to work with is really what makes it."
Yates, who started coaching at Kent Denver in 1981, is now 300-73 in his career. He is just the fourth coach to ever reach the milestone, following longtime Denver East and Bishop Machebeuf coach Pat Panek, Dove Creek's Kent Soper, and West Grand's Chris Brown, who won No. 300 earlier this season.
"I mean I don't know very much about those other guys," said Kent Denver star Will McKissick, "but I don't know anyone like him, man."
After the game, players came calling with a celebratory ice bath. Twice. The first one missed. The school had a poster ready for a postgame ceremony. A procession of former coaches and players, family and friends joined him on the field in congratulations. Included was former Denver Christian coach Dick Katte, the all-time leader in boys basketball wins, who is a close friend of Yates.
And through it all, Yates kept coaching. He made sure his kids were on time to the handshake line after the game, and gave a postgame speech about the importance of things outside football to his team. Kent Denver teacher Kristin Brown passed away a week ago, and the loss continues to weigh heavy on the school.
"It's a community," Yates said about Kent Denver. "It's a lot of people that care a lot about each other. You saw that we had a sad thing happen this week. Our kids and the whole school rallied behind that to try and support the family. We like to try to pride ourselves in caring about people."
Said McKissick: "I don't know if you heard him after the game, but after winning 300 games, he didn't even talk about that. He talked about Ms. Brown, who we lost this week, and he talked about how there are more important things than football. I think that's not your average guy."
Yates entered the season with 293 wins. It was clear that 300 would be within reach this season, and possibly Panek's record of 306 career wins, but you wouldn't know it from the coach's nonchalant manner.
"Coach Yates doesn't like talking about it," said Kent Denver quarterback Rob Casey. "But we knew it was coming, and so that was definitely something we were working toward."
"We were probably more aware of it than he was, if anything," added McKissick.
Winning 300 games is one thing. Coaching long enough to impact young lives over the course of 34 years should be another point of celebration, especially considering the demand on the role in today's game.
"It's hard work. And it certainly is intense," Yates said. "There are a lot of sleepless nights and anxiety and things like that.
"You know," he added, "if you're going to live, you might as well live well. That's actually what we talked to the kids about today before the game, saying, 'We have the opportunity to be on this field and play. Let's honor the fact that we get to be here and we get to live.' So that was it. They wanted to live well, and they did today."