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Fambrough: More Thursday games offer a reminder that officials shortages are a real thing

October 10,2018 02:13

It was like any other Monday meeting for members of the Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association to review film and assignments for Week 7 games. Until it wasn't. “I had 35-year official come in and tell me he can't call games anymore. He had ...


It was like any other Monday meeting for members of the Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association to review film and assignments for Week 7 games. Until it wasn’t.
“I had 35-year official come in and tell me he can’t call games anymore. He had been to the doctor and it is a medical thing,” local assignment secretary Marlon Harrison said. “High school athletes are always evergreen. They are 15 to 18 years old. Officials are not. We get older. Sometimes life intervenes. We’re dealing with all that more than ever now.”
I put in a call to Harrison to ask two key questions. Was this week’s long list of six Thursday games caused to a shortage of officials? And was a shortage of officials the reason there was not a seven-man crew on hand for the University High at Zachary game two weeks ago?
The answer was yes on both counts. Harrison mentioned something I already knew — that local schools were sent a letter before the season, asking them to move one game to a Thursday.
“I can assure you, having those games on Thursday helps because that gives us more people to use at different Friday games,” Harrison said. “Having one or two games is a big help and this helps even more.”
Harrison also explained that plans originally called for seven officials to call the U-High-Zachary game, one of the area’s top games. When conflicts took other officials off crews that Friday, he was forced to move two officials off the U-High-Zachary crew to staff all games with the minimum of five officials.
Should this be a concern for local schools and fans? Yes, but Baton Rouge is not alone.
The number of officials calling high school sports is shrinking across the state. The average age of officials and those interested in becoming officials is between 48 and 50.
Attracting younger officials is not easy. The LHSAA and its officiating arm, the LHSOA, have tried multiple ways to recruit younger officials. Another effort is kicking off now with new assistant executive director Lee Sanders in the lead.
Officiating is an investment of time and money because equipment must be purchased. Are there other alternatives?
Yes. Consider this one. Imagine half the high school games played Thursdays and the other half Fridays. Unless things change, that could be a reality.
An early start
One of the six Thursday games — Port Allen at Episcopal — is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., instead of the usual 7 p.m. start.
The host Knights (4-2, 3-0) enter the District 8-2A game tied with third-ranked Dunham (6-0, 3-0). Port Allen (1-5, 0-2) picked up its first win last week, a 7-6 victory over Loranger in a nondistrict game.
ACHS reunion
Ascension Catholic is scheduled to honor its 1968 and 1973 Class 1A title teams with a series of events before the Bulldogs’ Week 8 Friday game against rival White Castle at Donaldsonville’s Boutte Stadium.
There will be a 5 p.m. reception in the school’s gym for coaches, players, managers, cheerleaders and others who were part of either title team. The teams also will be recognized during the 7 p.m. game.
Those planning to attend the reception should RSVP by calling the school at (225) 473-9227 or coach Bucky Mistretta at (225) 257-4097.

Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter, @FambroughAdv.

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