The local high school football regular season will start this Friday with games in the South Carolina Independent School Association. Georgia High School Association games will begin Friday, September 4. Three weeks later, the South Carolina High School League will begin play.

But as the seasons get ready to kick-off, there is a shortage of officials to referee local games. It’s a problem that is not unique to the Aiken-Augusta area.

Chip Huffman is the secretary assigner of the Augusta Association of Football Officials. He says due to the COVID-19 pandemic they are down 27% from the usual number of officials they have available. Normally, the association has around 100 registered officials, but this year they are in the low 70’s to start the season. It takes 75-80 officials to referee the usual 10-11 varsity games in the Augusta, Georgia area. Ricky Robinson, who handles the same responsibilty on the South Carolina side for the area, says his group is facing the same problem.

To help with the shortage, some area schools have agreed to possibly move their games to Thursdays or Saturdays. Huffman says his association will adapt the best they can to provide officials for all the scheduled local games each week.

“You know it’s just kind of a week to week thing, we are just going to have to survive each week really, kind of like the football game, we are going to have to survive this Friday and move to next Friday and see what happens,” says Huffman.

“Our first week of the season, September 4, we are not overloaded with football games, we can cover those pretty easily. The second week of the season, the 11th we are loaded with football games,” added Huffman.

Although registration deadlines have passed, Huffman says they are still looking for experienced officials. “We can probably work something out if there are people out there who have experience and are willing to help,” said Huffman. You can contact the Augusta Association of Football Officials here.

He says his association has already had discussions with other local coordinators, and the GHSA, to help each other cover games out of town when they can.

Like the teams they will officiate, local referees will have new guidelines for the 2020 season. They are being asked not to travel to games in carpools or groups. They will also arrive in uniform to avoid using locker rooms, and each official will have his own designated water bottle. Time-outs will be extended by one minute to allow for each official to hydrate using his or her own bottle, rather than ones normally distributed by team managers. Only one captain from each team will meet for the pregame coin-toss.