Throughout the nation, a shortage of sports officials has resulted in a shortage of quality officials and Georgia is no exception.
In Friday night’s Jeff Davis-Long County football game, that shortage was on full display. Not only was the officiating crew unfamiliar with the rules, they even made up a rule that disproportionately hurt Jeff Davis’ Wing-T offense. It was the second game this season that the phantom rule resulted in the Jackets receiving multiple walk-offs for violating a rule that doesn’t exist.
Early in the game while Jeff Davis was on offense, I heard an official tell another official twice that “they have to be parallel to the line of scrimmage.” After the second time, I asked the second official was the official talking about our wingbacks, who, in the Wing-T, line up with their shoulders at a 45 degree angle to the line of scrimmage.
He said that the official was, indeed, talking about our wingbacks.
When I said we had been lining up like that for years he replied, “It’s a new rule this year.”
Which, of course, is not true. What is true is that all offensive players on the line of scrimmage must have their shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage. That rule does not apply to players lining up in the backfield.
After the non-rule was enforced in the Jeff Davis-Atkinson County game (two of the officials in that game were also officiating last Friday’s game), JDHS Head Coach Lance Helton contacted state high school officials and confirmed that there was no such rule.
During the first half of last Friday night’s game, JD Athletic Director Roger Metts called a Georgia High School Association official to inquire about the supposed “new rule” and confirmed that no such rule exists. Metts talked with the head official during the halftime break but to no avail.
What makes the situation so detrimental to the Yellow Jackets is the fact that Coach Helton’s Wing-T offense relies on timing. With the wingbacks forced by the officiating to turn their shoulders to be parallel with the line of scrimmage, they had to take an extra step on many of the plays for which timing is so important.
Fortunately, both Atkinson County and Long County were much weaker teams than Jeff Davis so the “new rule” enforcement didn’t have any bearing on the outcome, although the Yellow Jacket offense didn’t look as sharp as it could have, especially against Long County. The wingbacks were clearly distracted as, again and again, they’d line up in their normal 45 degree stances and, realizing they would be flagged, quickly changed position just before the snap. That surely had to have a detrimental effect on their ability to concentrate on doing their jobs as they had been coached to do.
Hopefully, none of the “new rule” officials will be in Hazlehurst at the Yellow Jackets’ next game Oct. 16 when Region 2-AA foe Bacon County comes to town for the Jeff Davis High Homecoming game.