This one is difficult because anytime a hometown newspaper writes about questionable officiating words such as “homer,” “biased” and others are tossed about. I’ll risk it. I’ve been called worse.
I’ve watched high school games from Oklahoma to Georgia and points in between. I long since lost count, but figuring an average of about 12 to 13 games per year (sometimes more, sometimes less) for 40 seasons, I’ve covered roughly 500 games.
Alabama high school football is heads and shoulders above most... talent-wise and coaching-wise. Alabama high school officiating is toes and ankles below most. It has not been good since I returned back to my home state in 2013.
Unless my eyes deceived me, and I was from quite a distance, Eufaula’s Rah Rah Thomas caught a would-be go-ahead touchdown in the final minute at Hueytown Friday night. Unless replays were doctored – they weren’t – the footage shows Thomas was in bounds. In fact, the official nearest the play signaled touchdown. However, a few counts later, another official ran in from an estimated 20 yards away and said Thomas was out of bounds.
Herein lies the problem. As former Tiger and current Eufaula radio play-by-play announcer Keith Bryan said, Eufaula is basically on an island. It is about an hour (give or take) away from four different official associations –Dothan, Phenix City, Troy and Enterprise. Dothan has a horrible reputation among visitors there, so no one in Eufaula wants to use those officials. Eufaula is too small to have its own organization, therefore is at the mercy often of hometown officials calling their alma maters against Eufaula.
Bryan said he first experienced problems with officials in the late 1990’s when he became involved with Pee Wee football. Some officials weren’t even sure from where to kick off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen officials mark off six or seven yards for five-yard penalties, or 16 yards for 15-yard flags. A false start should never result in a first-and-11. We’re talking simple math.
An out-of-town friend texted me early during Eufaula’s final drive, “Officials up there won’t let Eufaula come back.” He was watching the Tribune’s Facebook updates. When the Tigers got down to the red zone against Hueytown, his words proved prophetic.
Maybe the Alabama High School Athletic Association understands how unfair and unbalanced some officiating is and change how games are staffed. I realize more money for travel is involved, but something has to be done. Someone suggested officials should be paid more. NO! That will only encourage people to do a job for the money, not for the kids, as they should. I know some good people that do it for the right reasons. On the other hand, I’ve seen where officials “working” the press box who have been more concerned with how their hometown team is doing that the game they are supposed to be watching. It’s bad... real bad. It’s time for some changes. But, don’t hold your breath!