Officials are serious about toeing the line

Coaches, beware: High school football officials are serious about enforcing the sideline rules this year.
Just ask the Vardaman coaches, who learned the hard way in last Thursday’s game against Calhoun City.
One Vardaman assistant was ejected after stepping foot on the Calhoun City field twice during the game. The coach received two sideline penalties for his actions.
“He never said anything bad to an official,” said Vardaman head coach Justin Hollis. “He had stepped on the field to say something to somebody.
“The rule says that if any part of you is on the field, you’re on the field.”
The reason for the rule, says Larry Riley, the assigning secretary for the Northeast Mississippi Football Officials Association, is for everyone’s safety.
“It’s strictly for safety purposes,” Riley said. “It gives officials room to go up and down the field, and not have to run around the coaches or players.
“In not our area, but other areas, coaches have been run into.”
Hollis’ assistant may not have been on the field as a play was happening, but the rule, Riley noted, is also designed to keep the game flowing smoothly and for officials to have a clear view of the players on the field.
“I didn’t know you could get tossed for it,” Hollis said. “We were shocked about it. It threw us in confusion for about four minutes.
“Coaches are having trouble getting used to it. We were used to being two, three yards on the field. We just gotta learn like players learn how to play.”

Walnut’s Mr. Everywhere
– Wherever, whenever, Walnut’s Shaquille Perry can dramatically make an impact during a football game.
“He never leaves the field,” said the junior player’s head coach, Timmy Moore. “He’s on our special teams, offense and defense.
“He’s made plays in all phases of the game. He’s a playmaker wherever you put him.”
That was evidenced in last Thursday’s game against Middleton, Tenn. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Perry returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown, returned a punt 80 yards for a score and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass.
He had 167 all-purpose yards and three TDs on just six plays.
“We move him around on offense,” Moore said. “We motion him and get the ball to him in a lot of different ways.”
Perry, who also plays outside linebacker, has started every varsity game since his freshman year.
“I believe he started a few games as an eighth grader,” Moore said.
Because of Perry’s playmaking abilities, colleges have begun to take notice. Notre Dame invited him to their three-day camp this summer.
“He got the invitation back in February,” Moore said. “It was a good trip for him. It was the first time he’s ever been in that part of the country.”
As far as Perry’s recruitment goes, there have only been letters sent to him and no offers yet, says his coach.

Houston’s growing pains
– The Houston High football team is playing its first season in Class 4A, and is doing so with a roster resembling that of a junior varsity team – not in terms of talent, but in age.
“We have 57 players, and 44 of those are freshmen and sophomores,” said Hilltoppers head coach Buz Boyer.
Through four games this season, the Hilltoppers are 1-3 and face their first 4A opponent of the year, Pontotoc, at home on Friday night.
“On defense, we’ve been struggling this year. We’ve started a lot of sophomores and a couple of freshmen this year. We’re getting better every week, though.
“On offense, we play very well at times. We’re young there and tend to shoot ourselves in the foot on drives.”
With the defending 4A and 3A state champions in its division this year, Houston will no doubt be playing in a tough division.
Noxubee County, last year’s state champion, is currently the Associated Press’ top-ranked team in 4A, and Louisville, which won the 2007 and 2008 3A titles, was a top team – along with Winona, Aberdeen and Amory – in the 3A division Houston belonged to.
“With our 4A division being as tough as it is with Louisville and Noxubee County, I don’t know if it’s that much tougher than the 3A division we were in,” Boyer said. “We’re used to playing up to that level of competition.”

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal