Friday, October 15, 2021
Oct. 15, 2021

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Need for local football officials continues to grow

Game days get shuffled based on availability

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
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Bruce Hermansen loves to officiate football games. He’s been doing it for nearly 50 years.

“Last week, I worked five games in three days,” Hermansen said. “My wife thought I was a crazy.”

It’s a little bit of passion and a little bit of necessity these days for Hermansen, who is the president of the Evergreen Football Officials Association.

The association provides officials not just for the varsity high school games fans watch on Friday nights from La Center to White Salmon, but also for junior varsity, freshmen, middle school and youth games during the rest of the week.

And finding officials for all those games is becoming a bigger challenge these days for the EFOA.

“I would say a couple of years ago, our member numbers were in the mid 60s,” Hermansen said. “And now we’re down to about 46 or 47.”

Hermansen said several officials opted out of the football season last spring because of COVID concerns. And some of those officials decided not to return this fall.

“We did bring in six new officials this fall, which is more than we typically bring in,” he said. “We’re working to get those officials trained, but we don’t want to be put into a situation where we have to put them into a varsity football game before they are ready.”

So far, that hasn’t been necessary. Neither has reducing the normal five-official crews to four-official ones, thanks to the flexibility of schools.

Last week, games at White Salmon and Stevenson were played on Thursday. Washougal’s home opener on Friday against Woodland was moved up to 4 p.m., and the Camas game against Jesuit was pushed to 7:30 p.m. so that the same officiating crew could work both games.

“Luckily, we didn’t have to have the same crew at both of those games,” Hermansen said. “When Battle Ground pulled out of their game, we were able to move that crew to the Camas game. So the Washougal and Camas games each had their own crews. But by the time we learned about that change, it was too late for the schools to move their start times again.”

Hermansen said he has had to work both games at a doubleheader at McKenzie Stadium this season.

“That’s not ideal,” he said. “Officiating a game takes a lot out of you. And you don’t want to be at less than your best for that second game.”

And that has been another challenge — postponements brought on by COVID protocols. Hermansen said it can be tough to make the new rescheduled games and sites work with officials’ schedules.

“We’re getting through it as best we can,” he said.

Fans can expect more varsity high school games this season to be moved from Friday nights to Thursday nights or even Saturday afternoons because of officiating needs.

Hermansen expects as teams move into league play and the number of games each week is reduced, the burden on the EFOA will be lessened. But then there’s another date looming in the future.

The state’s vaccine mandate is Oct. 18. And as the officials are employed by the schools, Hermansen expects that the mandate will apply to his officials.

“And I have no idea of the vaccination status of our officials, or of their intent to get vaccinated,” he said. “That is something we are working on right now.”

Hermansen encouraged anyone interested in becoming an official to contact the association. While it may be too late to get any new officials trained in time for games this season, it would help lay the groundwork for next season.

“We would have anyone who is interested to come out to a game and shadow a crew to find out what it’s all about,” he said.

Hermansen said he first got into officiating as way to stay connected with the game after his playing days were over.

“And I’d say over the years, the best part of officiating is the relationships you have with players and coaches and the friendships you build with other officials,” he said. “It’s a real brotherhood.”

Or sisterhood. The Evergreen Football Officials Association added its first female football official this fall.

“What I hope to do here is lay the foundation for future officials,” Hermansen said. “My dream scenario is we introduce someone to officiating, train them up and then one day they tell me they have to leave us because they just got hired to officiate in the Pac-12.”