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Battle of Potato Creek is a classic

The Battle of Potato Creek, which dates back to 1976, is the epitome of a high school football rivalry and the 2019 installment played Friday night was a classic. The stands in Zebulon were nearly full with fans two to three deep standing along the fence which encircles the field. It was the first cool Friday night of the season – a welcome relief from field temperatures near 100 degrees. Grill smoke floated over the field and the aroma of seared meat filled the cool air. Two excellent marching bands performed and kept the players and fans hyped up. Cheerleaders with ribbons in their hair and their faces painted roamed the sidelines and everyone stood for and sang the national anthem. The two teams, the Trojans and Pirates, are well-coached and were prepared. Emotions were running high. Each and every player wanted to win this game and it showed. The hitting was intense. Effort was maximized and many players were near exhaustion in the final minutes of the game. Lamar built a nine-point lead then Pike cut it to 9-7 at halftime. The Trojans pulled out to a 31-7 lead then Pike got two touchdown passes late to make it 31-20 which was how it ended. It was a shame either team had to lose as they both left all they had out on the field. It was everything a fan could ask for in a high school football contest. There was one issue and I have noticed it in all of the games I have covered so far this season. It involves the officiating crews. It is not so much that they are making more bad calls, though there is some of that. My concern is the long periods of time it now takes officials to sort out the proper penalty for a call. Often they huddle up, with what I assume to be a rulebook out, to determine how to assess a penalty. This often happens on simple calls like holding and blocking in the back – calls that any coach and many of the fans know how to deal with. It got so bad that Pike’s PA announcer Terrell Moody commented on the endless delays and promptly drew a warning from the officiating crew. By my estimation, Friday’s game went about three hours and 15 minutes and I would say 45 minutes of that time was spent by officials figuring out what to do after they threw a flag and then explaining their decision to the coaches. This amounts to a serious detriment to teams who want to get the the line and get the ball snapped quickly. It is also perturbing to fans who are there to watch great football not what are apparently ill-trained officiating crews. It is often said a perfectly officiated game is one in which no one really notices the referees. We are a long way from that at the high school level in Georgia and things seem to be getting worse with each passing week.

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