By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Larry Riley still gets goose bumps when he hears a high school band play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Friday nights in the fall.
“I don’t know of any official whose heart doesn’t beat a little stronger when he hears the national anthem,” said Riley, who kicks off his 44th season as a football official in August. “If you don’t look forward to it, you better get on out.”
Riley is also beginning his 31st season as assigning secretary for the Northeast Mississippi High School Football Officials Association and District 1 of the Mississippi High School Activities Association. He replaced the late Faye Reid, who was the association’s first assigning secretary.
“When I took over, Mr. Faye handed me a hand-full of letters with names, numbers and addresses. That was his computer,” Riley said following Wednesday’s annual Faye Reid Golf Tournament at the Pontotoc Country Club. “What he had was good, but I re-worked the process.”
One of Riley’s major changes was going to set officiating crews, who work together all season. Prior to that, crews were mixed from week to week during a season.
“Mr. Reid was the one who got everybody working on the same page,” said Bob Knight, who has officiated for 38 years. “Larry Riley fine-tuned it. He went to crews. Basically, we worked with the same crew and knew where we were going to call games.
“I’ve had the same crew for years and it works a lot better.”
Knight, who has a grandson playing football for Mooreville, said he will likely call a limited number of games this season.
“We’ve had good officials all over our district over the years,” Riley said. “When you’ve got good officials, everything else falls into place.”
Larry Thomas, who is retiring later this month after 33 years as associate director and supervisor of officials for the MHSAA, visited with the Northeast Mississippi officials group Wednesday.
“You can’t start football season without the Faye Reid Golf Tournament,” he said. “Faye Reid started the first officials association in the state. Before that, everybody was on their own.
“He’s the father of high school officials in this state.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593
Countdown to kickoff
Upcoming dates for high school football:
– Aug. 1: Practice begins
– Aug. 19: Classic games
– Aug. 26: Regular season