“Wild” was the adjective Larry Riley used to describe Week 11 of the 2009 high school football season.
And that’s before most of the week’s games have been played.
The assigning secretary for the Northeast Mississippi Officials Association spent the better part of the last three days on the phone, trying to reschedule officials for more than 15 games that had been moved up a day early or postponed from Friday due to inclement weather.
“I’ve been doing it over 42 years and nothing has compared to this,” Riley said. “Some years, one or two games get postponed, but there’s been nothing ever like this before.
“It’s been a real problem for officials and coaches.”
With tornado warnings for most of Northeast Mississippi in effect on Friday afternoon, schools such as Itawamba AHS had to postpone their games scheduled for Friday to either today or Monday.
The Indians will close out the regular season this afternoon at 2:30 when the Daily Journal’s top-ranked large school, Shannon, comes to town. Whoever wins today’s matchup, involving the top two Class 4A teams in the state, will win the Division 1-4A title.
“When that tornado watch came out, that was the thing that changed the thought process,” said Itawamba AHS athletic director Lynn Moore, who earlier in the week had wrestled with the idea of moving the Indians’ home game against undefeated Shannon to Thursday. “We also know we had a flood this afternoon.”
History had to wait at least another day in this week’s Booneville-Belmont matchup. If the Blue Devils knock off host Belmont in a Division 1-3A game set for 2 p.m. today, then Booneville head coach Jim Drewry will have tied Joe Bradshaw (343-121-4) for the Mississippi high school career-wins record.
Prior to late Friday afternoon, the 78-year-old Booneville coach didn’t have any idea that he was nearing another milestone. He currently is the winningest public school coach in the state with a record of 342-156-5, according to The Clarion-Ledger.
“It will be a great honor because of the fine kids I’ve been associated with and all the assistant coaches that have meant so much to me,” said Drewry, who found out from a Daily Journal reporter that he was nearing another record. “Perhaps the biggest thing out of it is that I’ve been able to stay in it a great couple of years.”
Riley, who has been involved with high school officiating for so many years, is grateful for modern technology for making his job a little easier.
“With cell phones and computers, we’re able to get the messages to the officials a lot easier,” he said. “I don’t know how we would have done this 10 to 15 years ago with this many cancellations.”
Riley and Co. were able to work out getting seven officials – the same amount used during high school state semifinal and championship games, as well as in college games – to officiate today’s Shannon-IAHS game.
“With weather (technology) now, we’re able to look a week ahead of time to see what’s coming in so we’re not in for a real surprise,” Riley said. “That allows us to make other plans and have a backup plan ready to go.”
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal