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Official tosses final flag

by on November 07, 2019 10:50 AM

WINGATE — One of Centre County’s longest tenured football officials has completed his final season.

Larry Dyke, who just wrapped-up his 50th year of officiating scholastic football in Centre County, ruled over his final game on Thursday, Oct. 24, in the same place he began.

His career began in 1969 at Bald Eagle Area High School. There, he began officiating junior high and junior varsity football games, and after two years, he advanced to varsity contests. PIAA requirements made rookie officials work those lower-level games for two seasons before allowing them to move on to varsity games, which he did in 1971.

Since he first stepped on the sidelines in 50 years ago, Dyke said he has noticed plenty of changes not only in how games were refereed, but also how the game was played. “The game is a lot more safety cautious now than it was,” he said. “Now, they are more aware of the helmet-to-helmet hits, as well as the blind-side blocks.” Uniforms for officials were also quite different then. Dyke noted when he first took the field as a referee, he wore “white knickers with black and white striped high socks.” Dyke was a defensive back for Bald Eagle Area during his playing days. He credited his high school teacher, Ken McMullen, as well as his junior high football coach, for inspiring him to become involved with officiating. Dyke said, “I was always into football, and Ken asked me once, ‘Why don’t you get your license?’” So in 1969, he and his twin brother Gary traveled to Altoona to take the officiating test. He passed the test and a 50-year career on the field followed. In those five decades, Dyke recalled several memorial moments while enforcing the rules of the game. His most memorable game, he said, came while officiating a “BEA versus Bellefonte” type of rivalry game with his brother and former Penn State football All-American Bob Mittinger. The game pitted Hughesville and Mountoursville against each other, and he said the close game throughout was decided on a late field goal. Dyke was the umpire of the game, whose responsibility is to work on the defensive side of the ball and help with the spot after a play. He said after the winning kick, a coach from one of the team chased all three officials into the locker room. Dyke remembered that while sprinting to safety, something “whizzed past his ear.” It was a cup filled with rocks, tossed at him from the stands by an upset fan. Another memory that stands out for Dyke is when he overheard some varsity players discussing officiating during a game in 2010. While operating the chains, which reveals down and distance for resetting the down indication to first, one player asked another if he would ever want to be a football referee. He recalled one of the players responding with, “Are you crazy? I wouldn’t want the abuse.” “He could not have been older than 16 years old,” said Dyke of the responding player. This memory prompted him to discuss the difficulty of being in the position of someone who polices the rules of football. He said he feels bad for the referees still in the game that continue to referee week after week, and he feels frustrated with the some of the fans who attend games and the coaches that feel officials are leaning calls toward one team or another. “Nobody goes into these games with bias,” he said, “I just wish the attitudes of the fans and coaches would change.” He said that attitude is what’s thinning out the herd of officials. In Centre County, Dyke said there is a definite shortage of available referees. “We can’t get enough young officials,” he said. Now, in his retirement, Dyke said he plans to spend more time with his wife, Donna Walley, making crafts and them at shows around the area. He said he also wants to get a part-time job at a local grocery store.

 

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