(New Carlisle, IN) - High school football season is just around the corner. LaPorte and New Prairie kick off their seasons against each other in less than a month. Michigan City will open up against South Bend Riley on August 20.
Practices and scrimmages are already underway.
But it’s not just players who are gearing up. During a three-team scrimmage at New Prairie this week, a herd of zebras also took the field. Football officials from across the area got some training in too.
Jeff Dunham of the St. Joe Valley Officials Association was leading the training for about twenty referees. "This is an active certification clinic," he said, "where we coach the officials through their positions that they officiate, and we go through rule interpretations and other points of emphasis for 2021." While football players from New Prairie, Michigan City, and Mishawaka worked on their plays, the referees worked on their calls. "We're going through drills, and we're working our five-man mechanics as if it's a Friday night game," Dunham said.
Multiple training sessions and a 100-question written test are required to qualify to referee state tournament games. This week's training drew referees from all over northern Indiana. But, according to Dunham, a 23-year veteran of officiating, it's the first time they've met at New Prairie.
Dunham says the IHSAA has a shortage of football referees so far this year. As a result, some schools may have to reschedule a traditional Friday night game due to a lack of officials. Dunham says the shortage is not COVID-related; just not enough young officials are stepping up to replace the many that have retired.