With seasons and coaching jobs on the line, refs have a responsibility to get it right.
Let me be blunt: Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed some of the most poorly officiated football games I have ever seen in my entire life.
Yes, bad calls happen. Referees, like everyone else on the face of the earth, make mistakes. Just like when a quarterback misses a throw or a linebacker misses a tackle, every once in a while, a referee misses a call. Frankly, human error is just a part of sports, and that's never going to disappear — unless we exchange all the athletes and refs for robots, but we can discuss that amazing scenario later.
Back to the point.
Refs make mistakes. The problem is when those mistakes become so consistently awful they alter the game.
I have two examples of this scenario, the second more significant than the first.
Firstly, in Matanzas' game against Pine Ridge on Friday, Oct. 20, I watched from the sidelines as Pirates running back Josef Powell took a direct shot to the head on a kickoff return. It was plain as day. An absolute illegal by the defender that should have been whistled a personal foul. I winced as the ref standing right in front of me held onto his flag, prepared to call the cheap shot. But he didn't.
Then, there's the Flagler Palm Coast-Spruce Creek game.
On Friday the 13th, FPC and Spruce Creek clashed in a battle of the unbeatens. It was a great game. There were spectacular offensive highlights, great defense and an inspiring second-half comeback. But there was also arguably one of the worst calls by an official in the history of high school sports.
Down three points at the 6:07 mark in the fourth quarter, Hawks defensive back Jhemez Hull intercepted Bulldogs quarterback Ryan Freeman and took the ball 93 yards untouched into the end zone. The touchdown reclaimed the lead for the Hawks. That is, until it was wiped off the scoreboard.
One referee blew the play dead at the 40-yard line.
Why, you ask?
Because he though FPC was going for a 2-point conversion — on a fourth-and-goal, from the six-yard line, immediately following a timeout.
Did it affect the outcome of the game? Maybe. Maybe not. But there's no excusing the fact that that missed call was completely unacceptable.
I'd also like to point out that I feel for the ref. I don't know him personally. He could be a great guy who just had an off-night.
But these kinds of things can't continue. Not when there are entire seasons and, most importantly, jobs at stake.
Matanzas coach Robert Ripley put it best.
"I tell people all the time: They don’t ever get fired," he said after the Pine Ridge game, a game the Pirates amassed over 15 penalties. "They don’t ever get assessed. But yet, they can tell us what to do every single Friday night, and I can get fired, my coaches can get fired and nobody cares about that. Nobody gives a crap.”