- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Kendall Smith officiated Mississippi private school football games for more than 30 years.

He is the first to say he made and witnessed a lot of boo-boos during that time.

Such as this one, which he details in his new book “Confessions of a High School Zebra.”

He was assigned the duty of line judge early in his career for a game at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, where the coach was the legendary Jack Carlisle. Smith was “in awe” of Carlisle. And as line judge, he would work along the MRA sideline.

Wrote Smith: “Early in the second quarter, there was a commotion in the middle of the field and I spotted a yellow flag on the ground. Our umpire for the night was Jim Book. He was built like a fire plug . short and squatty, plus he wore thick, wire-rimmed glasses. He was an easy target for abuse from the stands and the sidelines.

“As I approached, Book exclaimed to the referee, ‘Number 64 on the blue (MRA) team told me ‘hey, fat a_-, you better watch yourself.’ So 64 is gone. He ain’t gonna talk to me like that.’

“I was instructed to go tell Coach Carlisle what happened. I am sure my voice shook . ‘Coach, they got unsportsmanlike conduct on number 64.’

“Carlisle asked me: ‘What did he do?’ I replied, ‘He called Book a fat a_.’ ‘Then throw his a - out!’ Carlisle said, meaning number 64.

“The next day, Tom Rice, our assigning secretary, happened to run into the father of number 64 at the grocery store. The dad asked Rice why we threw his boy out of the game. Tom told him.

“The father then explained to Tom, ‘My boy was talking to his best friend on the other team. They go to church together, hang out together. He was just messing around with him.’

“So Jim Book, suffering from a severe case of rabbit ears, ejected an innocent man.”

With hamburgers at stake

Smith tells tales on himself, too.

Like the time at Benton Academy, when a group Smith referred to as “the infamous Benton fans lining the end line (of the end zone)” shouted for the officials to penalize a Central Hinds player for briefly kneeling and praying in the end zone after catching a 70-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown broke a scoreless tie in the middle of the third quarter.

“Unsportsmanlike conduct! Throw a flag!” they screamed, among other things.

Smith told one fan, who was leaning against the goal post: “Get back five yards.”

The fan replied: “I ain’t going nowhere you fat - .”

“Now that really upset me,” Smith wrote. “Not so much the cursing, but because I had just finished one of my legendary, every two-year crash diets and was cruising 60 pounds lighter than the previous season. I did not appreciate someone calling me fat.”

Smith threw a flag as soon as the comment hit his ears and ordered sheriff deputies to escort the fan out of the stadium.

Smith jogged to the 3-yard line, where the ball was being placed for the extra point. “Dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct. We’re going to penalize them 15 yards on the extra-point try.”

Smith wrote that referee John Kenney told him: “You’re gonna get us killed over a yard-and-a-half. All we can do is penalize them half the distance to the goal.’ I said, ‘What?’

“Kenney said, ‘Yeah. And on top of that, they’re not going to give us any hamburgers after the game.’ “

“I should point out,’ Smith wrote, “that the National Federation of High Schools later changed the rule to be enforced on the succeeding kickoff. I’d like to think it was because of my legendary call at Benton.”

“Oh,” he added, “we did get our hamburgers.”

Enough stories for a sequel

Smith, a 65-year-old Brandon resident, officiated games between 1979 and 2013. He thought he would return for the 2015 season after having knee replacement surgery the year before.

“But it just didn’t work out,” he said. “I think God did me a favor, not letting me know 2013 would be my last year.

“You know, I’ve officiated more than 600 junior high and high school games, and if I get real quiet, I can remember something from every single one of them. I loved it, I really did.”

He started his career calling games on Intramural Field 3 in 1971 while a student at Mississippi State. He eventually called state championship games and the first meeting between a public and private school in 1998.

“I always get a lot of questions when people find out I was a football official. They seem really intrigued,” he said. “That’s one reason I decided to write the book. I knew other officials would like it, but I figured football fans would, too. And that’s turned out to be the case.”

He has recalled countless stories that didn’t make it into this book, so he is considering a sequel. The book is $14.95, which includes shipping, and available by emailing Smith at kendall@doodlevillemedia.com.

The book is dedicated to the late Orley Hood, the longtime columnist of The Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News. “I loved his writing and sort of always felt like I knew him,” Smith said. Part of the proceeds of the book go to the funding of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s annual Orley Hood Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism. It is given to the state’s outstanding high school journalist.

“I think Orley might’ve liked this book,” Smith said.

___

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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