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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / High school football officials concentrate on the action during a scrimmage Friday at Bradley Central that also included Baylor, Chattanooga Christian, Notre Dame and Soddy-Daisy. A shortage of officials in Tennessee led the TSSAA to first require and then recommend that each member school schedule at least one game for a Thursday night this season.

Fewer high school football officials in Tennessee will equal more nights for fans around the state to watch games this year.

In an otherwise difficult situation for the sport, it's one possible upside.

Earlier this year, due to a shortage of referees, the Tennessee Secondary School Association announced it would require each member school to schedule at least one football game on a Thursday. The TSSAA later backed off that as a requirement and instead made it a recommendation for teams to help ease the strain caused by a decline in the number of game officials.

The result, according to TSSAA administrators, is that more than 200 games across the state were moved to Thursdays.

While the local scene is not affected as much as other parts of Tennessee when it comes to officiating shortages, the greater Chattanooga area will play 12 games on Thursday nights in the 2022 season, though not all of those were the results of the TSSAA's actions.

"We are short on officials. There is no question about that," said Jay Blevins, a local football official for 15 years. "There are other associations throughout the state in worse shape than we are. We have 12 full-time crews, but the shuffling gets tight when you have sickness or someone is going out of town during the season.

"If we are in a position where we can't cover a game, we can ask another association to cover it if they are available."

Blevins is part of the Southeast Tennessee Football Officials Association, which has added more than 10 first-year officials for the upcoming season and also gained four others through transfers. Overall, that's a net gain of four for the association from last season.

In some cases, moving a game to a different day isn't possible. An officiating crew from Blount County will have to cover three-time reigning Division II-AAA state champion McCallie's game against Florida's West Broward on Friday, Sept. 9. The TSSAA originally requested for the Blue Tornado to host a Thursday night game that week, but it could not be done with a team coming from out of town.

The first local game of the season is a Thursday matchup, with Class 3A's Brainerd visiting 6A's Bradley Central at 7 p.m. on Aug. 18. National outlets and plenty of college coaches are expected to be at Jimmy Lovell Field to see the Panthers and Bears, who both have high-end Division I prospects.

After starting last season as a freshman for Rome High School in Georgia, Martels Carter Jr. is expected to be a star on both sides of the field for Brainerd. Carter, whose namesake father became head coach of the Panthers in March, is considered one of the top recruits for the class of 2025 and already has scholarship offers from Tennessee, Michigan State and many others.

In addition, Panthers left tackle Jarvis Strickland Jr. (6-foot-6, 280 pounds) has offers from Kentucky and Ole Miss as a freshman, while senior Donivon Thomas (6-5, 220) has 13 Division I offers and is receiving strong interest from Pittsburgh.

The Division I prospects for Bradley Central, which has made 12 consecutive playoff appearances, include Damarius Ballard, Marcus Goree Jr., J'Alan Terry, Tito Williams and Jackson Wilson. Goree, a junior defensive back and wide receiver, already has offers from Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ole Miss.

"We are fixing to see a Thursday night football game to start the year where kids on both sides of the ball will have endless opportunities to make their names known," Coach Carter said. "You don't see many games where both teams have this many high-end prospects. We are rocking and excited to go up there and show what we are made of.

"But we know a game is not won with two to three star individuals. It's won as a total team. You are only as strong as the weakest link."

Brainerd will play two Thursday night games this season, which will allow for some of its top prospects to have travel time to not rush college visits on Saturdays.

While the majority of programs in the area do not have a Thursday night game scheduled, many are open to whatever the TSSAA requests of their program.

"I pretty much told the TSSAA when they reached a decision about i,t I will play whatever Thursday if they want us to," Ooltewah coach James Manning said. "Our officiating crew is a little bit bigger then a lot of other areas in the state. I don't think very many schools in our area moved to Thursdays.

"We are OK for now, but we told them we will play whenever they want. It doesn't affect us as of yet. If we see bad weather coming, we could bump one to Thursday."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / High school football officials confer before the snap during a scrimmage Friday at Bradley Central that also included Baylor, Chattanooga Christian, Notre Dame and Soddy-Daisy. The TSSAA is dealing with a shortage of officials that makes it hard to staff all games on Friday nights.

NOT ON FRIDAY

A list of area games scheduled for Thursday nights this season (italics indicate the game was moved as a result of the TSSAA’s recommendation).

Aug. 18

Brainerd at Bradley Central, 7

Red Bank at Cleveland, 7:30

Signal Mountain at Hixson, 7:30

Oct. 6

Sweetwater at McMinn County, 7:30

Oct. 13

Sale Creek at South Pittsburg, 7

Sequatchie County at Giles County, 7

Brainerd at Sweetwater, 7:30

Oct. 27

Howard at Walker Valley, 7

Rhea County at Coffee County, 7

Community at Grundy County, 7:30

Soddy-Daisy at East Ridge, 7:30

White County at Sequatchie County, 7

 

 

 

 

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