Last-Minute Makeshift Officiating Crew Saves Homecoming Game

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As a shortage of sports officials impacts youth and high school sports across the country, a Minnesota community scrambled to put together an officiating crew so that Friday night’s homecoming game could be played.

Duluth East was set to host Grand Rapids last Friday, but when the 6 p.m. kickoff rolled around there were no officials for the game. As a result, both teams began making phone calls.

Eventually, assistant coaches for both teams donned the stripes, as well as Grand Rapids’ radio color commentator, Jesse Powell. Kickoff eventually happened at 7 p.m.

“It was weird. I don’t think it really settled in until halftime. The first half I was sort of on auto-pilot,” Powell told the local Fox affiliate. “It’s been a few years since I’ve reffed a football game. I looked up at the scoreboard and at that time, it was 20-19. It was a close game and I really sort of went this is kind of wild.”

All three officials were glad to lend a hand.

“It’s a big game for both us. It was Homecoming for us. The stands were packed. We couldn’t have this game delay for more time. We had to have the game that night so it was important to our players. It was important to their players. We had to do whatever it took to get that game played,” Duluth East assistant coach Luke Hietala said. 

Grand Rapids went on to win 56-28. 

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