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Nine years ago, I saw an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding the San Diego County Football Officials Association. I have always loved sports and being a UCLA grad never missed a football or basketball home game during my time on campus.

Well, here I am, first year as a football referee and my phone rings at work, “Hey, Johnnie, this is Jim Sibbet, (Jim is the high school football game assignment secretary), are you available to referee a JV and Varsity game today at San Pasqual High School?”

You can imagine my surprise and the level of anxiety that hit me immediately. “Yea, Jim, absolutely,” I said. “But where is San Pasqual?” It’s at this point that I lose all sense of direction and can only think, wow my very first varsity football game. Jim goes on to give me what he says later were precise directions. Frankly, I don’t remember much of what he said other than something about Lake Hodges and Bear Valley Parkway.

So, off to San Pasqual High School I go. Now, nine years ago the traffic going up I-15 wasn’t as bad as it is today, but nonetheless, I should have known to leave a little earlier than I did. As it turns out I not only got caught up in traffic, I got lost. I know you’re asking yourself how does someone get lost going to a high school…believe me it’s not easy.

In a panic, I call Jim Sibbet. “Jim, Johnnie. I’m lost!” “Where are you,” he says? “I don’t know,” is my response. To his credit, Jim calmly walks me through how to get there. Well, at this point, I’m late. And, you know how it feels when you’re late for that job interview or first day at work, well I was sweating bullets.

Finally, I see what I believe to be high school students and after asking them where to find San Pasqual High School, they guide me there with the precision of an air traffic controller, so I thought.

There I was finally at San Pasqual High School. As I pulled in there it was the giant Patriot mascot on the stadium wall. I had arrived at my first varsity high school game.

The only problem was that I was at Orange Glen High School, not San Pasqual, home of the Golden Eagles. I refereed the entire varsity game at the wrong school. I now carry my Map Quest, Thomas Bros. and directions from the school to ensure I never end up on the wrong field.

Funny thing, not only have I never gotten lost again, I haven’t made a bad call in nine years either.

Life as a football referee is fun, exciting and great exercise. I usually lose about 20 pounds each year. It’s also a chance to see some of the great student-athletes we have here in San Diego County.

I’ve officiated for the likes of Reggie Bush, Alex White, Willie Buchanan and Kellen Winslow, Jr. It’s also a great way to see San Diego County first hand. Just ask me and I’ll direct you to any of the high schools in the county. And, if you’re real adventurous, then log on to www.sdfoa.org and join us for Friday Night Lights and help us make the call.

JOHNNIE PERKINS

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