GRAYSON CO., TX – Players and coaches spend months running drills and practicing plays to get ready for the fall football season. But there's another group who spend just as much time preparing, the game officials.
High school football games have crews of five refs on the field, and it's their job to make sure the game is friendly and fair. But for the officials, getting ready for football season takes time, training and a lot of research.
In a region where football is more of a religion than a sport, most people know the rules of the game.
"A lot of the people in the State of Texas know what football is about, they know what all the rules are and they know what we're supposed to be doing and what the players are supposed to be doing,” said long time referee, Nat Masxon.
Maxson has been a game official for 25 years and know high school football inside and out. It may not be a full time job, but he says it’s worth every minute of the game.
"I love the game, I love being around the people that I get to work with, it's just a real good hobby to be associated with,” said Maxson.
Tom Bean Head Football Coach Tal Sanders said they practiced hard and prepared all summer for football season. Once school starts, the players can only put in eight hours a week, but Sanders said they work hard to get ready for Friday nights.
"We average right now about 81 hours a week of coaching and of course the players put in a lot of time. They come into summer camps, weight lifting, they go to seven on seven stuff, they put a whole lot of time in,” he said.
And the same amount of work is put in by the officials. Maxson said their unofficial season starts in the spring, when coaches pick the crews to work their games.
Wwe have to understand the importance of the contest and what's riding on each contest so it pays for us to have the background work done like that,” said Maxson.
They not only study up on schools, teams and the new rules, but get in shape for the physical demands of being on the field alongside the players.
"It's very dangerous for someone to be out there and get dehydrated and go into cramp mode, a lack of fluids can lead to all kinds of problems on the field so we have to start taking on our fluids and understand we have to drink the right types of fluids,” said Maxson.
Maxson has seen a lot over the years as a referee in North Texas. He’s also seen some big changes in the high school teams and players.
"It's almost got to the point where the athleticism of the kids and the spread offense has just about passed five officials by. It's almost to the point where we need to use the seven officials like the collegiate ranks do,” said Maxson.
But for coaches and refs, it's all about doing your best, and leaving everything on the field.
"I want them [referees] to be ready too when they come on Friday nights so they're in game shape and ready to go,” said Sanders.
Maxson and his crew will be officiating their first game of the season Friday night at Denison. He said they're down for nine games this season, but can get called out as far away as San Antonio or Houston on an off-night if a school needs a ref.