November 17, 2011
Georgia football officials have come under fire after using their whistles an inordinate amount of times on the field, and then making a surprising decision off it: They kicked all of the media off the sidelines at halftime.
As first reported by Augusta's WJBF-TV and quickly followed up by OnlineSportsGuys, the officiating crew that worked the high school playoff game between Henry County (Ga.) High and Thomson (Ga.) High banned all media from the sidelines at halftime of the opening round Class AAA playoff matchup, which Henry County won 28-7. The officials gave no reason for the ban, but enlisted the help of McDuffie County Sheriff's Deputies and Thompson police officers to escort all media cameramen off the sidelines and usher them up toward the press box or other distant vantage points.
"No doubt it was the most bizarre officiated sporting contest of any that I've ever watched," McDuffie County School Board member Greg Derry told WJBF. "I think we played our game they played their game, because the calls were … calls bad against them and bad against us. It was just an unfortunate night."
Because no official reason was given for the media's forced exodus a WJBF reporter tried to get a reason for his forced removal from McDuffie County Schools Superintendent Jim Mabron, but the county employee would only tell him to go and ask the officials.
Clearly, that officiating crew -- which is part of the Atlanta Peach State Football Association -- was feeling heat for a hyperactive first half. By game's end, the group had called 22 penalties for a total of 230 lost yards against both teams. In the first half alone both teams were flagged for sideline violations, one of which was related to the Thomson school band, after an official ran into the band on the sideline and it was determined that Thomson was somehow responsible for controlling it (that really happened, as you can read about here in the Augusta Chronicle).
Still, a Georgia High School Association spokesperson told WJBF that the decision to forcibly remove all media from the sideline, while not against the rules, was highly frowned upon and would be investigated in the coming weeks.
For now, the area media are still shaking their heads while Thomson players and coaches bemoan a game that they feel could have at least been more competitive with fewer whistles.
"It just seemed like every time we tried to get some momentum going there was a penalty," said Thomson football coach Milan Turner told the Chronicle. "I can't tell you how many times we were first-and-20 or second-and-20. Man, that's hard to overcome. Ten yards was going to be tough enough against them, but 15 or 20 was just too much for us."
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