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Local gridiron official throws last flag Friday

Posted: September 26, 2011 - 11:03pm
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Referee Guy Warren signals a penalty during Juneau-Douglas' home game against West Valley on Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Warren is retiring from referee duty after 31 years.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Referee Guy Warren signals a penalty during Juneau-Douglas' home game against West Valley on Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Warren is retiring from referee duty after 31 years.

Local football head referee Guy Warren jokes that he started officiating growing up around the neighborhood sandlot games when the last person was picked and sides were chosen for games.

“Neither team wanted me so I wound up being the referee,” Warren laughed. “I enjoy sports. I really enjoy being involved in them. I wasn’t particularly blessed as a player and, for some reason, rules have always had a bit of an infatuation for me anyway. Even in high school I knew the rules better than the coaches did. I just wanted to be involved and didn’t have the gifts of a player, so officiating was next.”

Warren called his last Juneau-Douglas game last weekend and will be on the field for the last time Friday when Thunder Mountain hosts Renton, Wash.

“I will miss it,” Warren said. “My hair is matching the color of my hat now though, so it is probably time to do something else.”

Warren’s first official referee experience began as a senior at Oregon’s Willamette High School. He officiated junior high games and small school junior varsity games in the Eugene area.

“The time I was there our high school football team was somewhere between really sucked and really sucked a lot,” Warren laughed. “There were pretty poor. But it was still fun to watch the games and watch officials. We had a 21-game losing streak at one point. They have gotten a lot better since then.”

Upon graduating in 1975 from the Wolverines he changed mascots to the University of Oregon.

Warren supported himself through college at the U-of-O by continuing to officiate youth, junior high and high school games.

“Certainly the extra money didn’t hurt,” Warren said. “But that wasn’t the main factor, I had other jobs, but being out on the field in all the action is special.”

As a freshman in college he called his first high school varsity game.

“It was Elmira at Marist,” Warren said. “Like I said, I just generally enjoyed sports but wasn’t particularly gifted enough to ever think about playing them in any competitive fashion.”

After graduating from the college he worked in Portland for two years and continued to officiate in the area. Warren met his wife Peg in Portland, Ore., and they married during the football fall of 1980 and moved to Alaska.

Guy officiated his first Alaska game in full officials gear in the fall of 1981. When he arrived at the filed the other officials wore jeans and a striped shirt and had rule books in their back pockets.

“That kind of blew them away,” Warren laughed. “They were all volunteers and they meant well, but there really wasn’t a strong clue of what they were doing. There were baseball caps and striped jackets, blue jeans and other pants. So I went out in full regalia and it kind of impressed them a bit.”

It was the era of junior, senior and open divisions and all local play.

“It was a JYFL junior game,” Warren said. “It was played at what was called Centennial Field.”

Centennial Field is now the site of the FAA Flight Service Center is. Games were also played at Melvin Park as Adair-Kennedy did not exist.

Warren’s first high school game in Juneau was still not an official ASAA game and the JDHS team lost handily to a small school from up north.

“It was still pretty unofficial,” Warren said. “We weren’t in a conference of any sort. They just scheduled whomever they could schedule.”

With officiating usually comes the loud boisterous crowds of fans who live to either agree or disagree with the flags thrown and the reasons why.

“Actually, when you get a good sized crowd they drown themselves out,” Warren said. “It’s when you have a smaller crowd that the voices can be picked out. You just have to learn to ignore it. And if some particular fan gets too irate we can digress to security to deal with that kind of thing.”

The moments of why he does it have been many, from great plays, to great events, to just the smell of the evening air in the fall.

“I think after a well played competitive game where both teams kind of stayed in it,” Warren said. “And we officials got to be a part of it. And certainly after that first high school game we had here years ago. That was kind of cool. And the first playoff game a few years ago, that was pretty cool, even though Juneau got whacked that was a fun game.”

On the sidelines faces start to blur together on the fields of time.

Said Warren, “It has become kind of a running gag that we have little kids out there on the field and many say, ‘My daddy said you refereed his games when he was a boy too.’ That is kind of a reminder that, whoa, I am getting old.”

In fact, Warren has officiated games when current JDHS head coach Rich Sjoroos was a player. Now Juneau football has grown to three levels of youth teams plus two high schools.

“The biggest thing I would like to say to the fans right now is if they look out there on the field at all of us officials they will notice a lot of grey hair,” Warren said. “We are looking at a transition time and if we are going to maintain having local officials, than we are going to need local officials. If there are individuals out there who thought they wanted to give this a try this would be a great time.”

Warren, who also officiates softball, encourages future officials to contact the JYSL or the local high schools to see how to become a striped shirt.

“He really has no athletic ability at all,” Warren’s wife Peg said jokingly. “Really. He’ll fully admit that. He likes sports and this is his way of being involved. We are moving down to Centralia, Wash. to be on the road system and travel. He claims he is not going to ref anymore, but he will.”

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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