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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – After a year-and-a-half wait, high school football finally returned last weekend but as more teams hit the field of play starting this weekend there simply aren’t enough referees to properly officiate games.

“Yeah, we’re low. We usually cover the games with 5 officials, and over the next 2 weeks we’re really only going to be able to cover them with 4 officials,” said football official Caley McGowan.

Smaller crews are a safety concern, especially at the varsity level where the job of the officiating crew is not just to call penalties but to act as game managers so things don’t get out of hand.

“That 5th official, when it was officially brought in, was brought in to kind of serve that role. To be that extra pair of eyes, to keep an eye on something before it got out of control,” McGowan explained.

Some games are being moved to either Thursdays or Saturdays because of the shortage.

The number of referees has been declining the last several years, but the pandemic really has put a dent in things.

“It’s not just football. Football is in-season right now, but we’ve got other sports too,” McGowan told FOX40. “Officiating across the board. If you’re interested in any sport, we can find somewhere for you to come in and work.”

“It’s been just an excellent ride. I mean, a lot of people have been able to not only take me under their wing on the football field but also in life,” said Jojo Freeman, who helps train new officials.

New officials get their start online and then advance quickly to some on-the-job training.

“Last week we had an official who had just signed up the week before and was doing his first game ever. He and I hit the field an hour before the game, went over some things and he had a blast,” Freeman said.

“The bottom line is, we just need people to be willing to come out and give it a shot and give it a try. It’s a really good time right now too, because in the spring with the short season, we can get people lined up, and then they’ll be in a better position to work in the fall,” McGowan said.

And no matter what the sport, the time from signing up to getting out on to the field officiating only takes, literally, about a week.

Those interested in officiating can click or tap here for more info.