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Experience is on the side of Babe Allen, who will be part of the officiating crew at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A football championship game Saturday in Durham.
“I guess the advantage I have is this is my third one,” said Allen, who previously officiated state championship games in 2003 and 2013. “I was as nervous as all get out that first year in Chapel Hill.”
Allen, who is in his 28th season calling high school football games, will work as the field judge for the state 3-A title game between Havelock and Charlotte Catholic at Wallace Wade Stadium on the Duke University campus as part of the seven-man crew from the Coastal Plain Football Officials Association. The group also includes Rod Ramsey of Nashville (line judge) and Clee Atkinson of Tarboro (back judge). Atkinson, a Wilson native, is the Edgecombe County sheriff.
“I’m the old man on the crew,” joked the 58-year-old Allen.
The crew worked the 4-AA Western championship game last Friday between Mallard Creek and Hough in Charlotte.
Allen, a 1978 graduate of Rock Ridge High who usually wears the white hat of referee during the regular season, has “done it all” when it comes to officiating different spots. His duties as field judge will focus on the secondary on the home side of the field. Allen said that having the expanded crew over the usual five-man crew during the regular season is “definitely better.”
Allen has worked as a baseball umpire at the high school and collegiate level for more than 30 years and spent 23 years officiating high school basketball official before stepping down five years ago. He said without hesitation that pass interference calls are the toughest to rule on the football field.
“It’s like the block-charge in basketball,” he explained. “It happens so fast that you’ve got to focus on the defensive player instead of the offensive player.”
Getting the call right, he added, comes down to position and timing.
“Good position and good timing is probably 80 percent of being a successful,” Allen said. “The rest is a thorough knowledge of the rules.”
Allen thanked his fellow Coastal Plain Football Officials Association members, especially CPFOA assigner Mike Webster and Harry Helmer, as well as Harry Tyson, a collegiate official who worked with Allen recently to help him brush up on his field-judge duties.
While he’s “been there, done that” with regard to calling state championship games or the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series and other high-level college baseball games, Allen hasn’t lost perspective on the importance of Saturday’s game for its participants.
“Just knowing that you’re at the stage where somebody is going to win a state championship and somebody is going to lose a state championship,” he said.