By Matt Hill
Two Elizabethton residents were recently rewarded for being outstanding officials by being given the opportunity to officiate Tennessee’s most prestigious high school football game of the year.
Stephen Street and Ernie Bray called the Class 6A Blue Cross Bowl last month in Cookeville after Region I officials were chosen to do the game.
For Street, a 26-year veteran official, it was a very nice reward for all the hard work he had put in.
“The experience was great,” he said. “What made it great, they were two very well-coached teams.Whitehaven and Maryville were very well-coached, very well-disciplined teams and it was a joy to officiate the football game.”
The contest actually followed Greeneville’s state championship repeat, as the 2A, 4A and 6A games were on Saturday.
For Bray, who has been calling games for just five years, it was an honor to be able to call a big game so soon in his career.
“It was a unique feeling,” he said. “It’s sort of hard to describe. I’ve had a lot of good mentors like Stephen and Shelby Miller and Jim Cradic and the whole association is a good association. I feel like I was prepared.”
Bray didn’t expect to be chosen so soon into his career for such a huge game.
“I was really shocked to be honest with you with this only being my fifth year and especially the 6A game,” he said. “It was a real humbling experience for me, it really was.
A lot of times in local high school football games, fans will be boisterous about certain calls. This game though, there wasn’t any big controversy, just well-played football.
“As far as officiating the game was very uneventful,” Street said. “I think the first half we only had two or three penalties before halftime and two of them were offsetting penalties on substitution violations. It got a little sloppy in the second half, but it was a very uneventful football game as far as the officiating goes. When you get to that level they know how to play football and it makes officiating a joy.
“We didn’t have any questionable calls and we had supervisors from all over the state who were at that football game. There were six of our officials from Region I and they got great reviews from all across the state. Everyone was really impressed. We are blessed up here with football officials.”
One reason region one officials are so highly regarded is because they are such good friends and help each other. It’s been said that the officials have the closest bond of anybody in the state and is definitely one of the best associations.
“They’ve become family and you get to know them and start praying for one another and when you go on the field with somebody you feel like it’s someone you’re very close with,” Bray said.
Said Street: “When you talk about training we have eight to 10 meetings and you have to attend at least five of those meetings. It’s taken very seriously by everyone in our association. It’s our job to make it a level playing field and hope the team that plays the best will come out and win.”
These two officials are very respected and as were able to have one of the biggest honors bestowed for a TSSAA official.
“It was a the biggest game in the state and it was a privilege to be a part of it,” Bray said.
Said Street: “As far as football games this ranks at the top. It doesn’t get any bigger than the 6A state championship game. I’ve worked baseball for several years, but as far as football goes that’s about as good as it’s going to get at the high school level.”