When you ask Tom Jones what’s changed in officiating high school football and basketball spanning five decades, he doesn’t hesitate: the skill of the players.
“Kids are so much faster now,” said Jones, 77. “That’s what’s happened to the high school game.”
If you’ve been to a football or basketball game in South Sound during the past 40 years, Jones has had something to do with it – whether it was coaching, officiating or making assignments. He retired last year after 41 years with the Olympia-based South Sound Officials Association, including 35 years as the association’s game-assigning secretary.
For his long service in the community as an official and a coach, Olympia High School will honor Jones prior to its season-opening football game Friday night against nationally ranked Lake Oswego (Ore.), the defending Oregon 6A state champion, at Ingersoll Stadium. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.
Jones’ career in zebra stripes started in the mid-1960s when he helped his brother-in-law officiate a boys basketball game at Olympia’s Jefferson Middle School. Soon after, he began officiating basketball and football.
He did that for more than 40 years and along the way helped spearhead the formation of the South Sound Officials Association in the early ’70s. The final football game Jones officiated was in 2010.
In addition to officiating, he coached Olympia’s fastpitch team for 14 seasons, until 2007.
In 2009, he was inducted into the Washington Officials Association’s Hall of Fame, but Jones said it means more to him to be honored at the local level.
“This is a local thing, so it makes it … nicer than something at the state level,” said Jones, whose son, Tom Jones II, has been a basketball official in the area for 33 years.
Terry Simmonds, who has been with the SSOA since 1972 and took over in April from Jones as game assigner, said high school officials not working Friday night will be in attendance – wearing their black-and-white stripes – to help honor Jones.
Simmonds said 100 ceremonial coins have been made, and they feature a likeness of Jones on one side and the words “South Sound Officials Association” on the other side. Jones will do the ceremonial coin toss, and former longtime KGY radio play-by-play broadcaster Dick Nichols will emcee the pregame event.
“He has done so much for not only our officials in our association, but with the state,” Simmonds said of Jones. “He has mentored people to be better officials and to help our association be the best it can be.”
Tom Jones II said his father did whatever it took to assure the best quality of officials were at games, even if that meant that his father had to fill in on game nights.
“The effect of (how) he’s reached out to people is even mind-boggling to his son,” Jones II said. “He’s always been my mentor. It’s going to be really exciting to see the outpouring of people.”
The ceremony for Jones is part of a big day planned at Ingersoll Stadium.
At 3 p.m. Friday, the Olympia and Lake Oswego junior varsity teams will play a game.
The main attraction is the varsity game between Olympia and Lake Oswego.
The Lakers, coached by former Oregon State wide receiver Steve Coury, finished last season ranked No. 23 in the ESPN/Powerade Fab 50 national rankings.
There will be a barbecue after the varsity game.
Olympia coach Bill Beattie said the challenge of facing the Oregon powerhouse will help his players and the Bears’ coaching staff see and understand what it takes to get a program to a national level.
“We want our kids to be exposed to that,” Beattie said. “They need to be able to chat with kids who have been at that level before. We know everyone around here, but to have a chance to be with a team that’s nationally ranked, it’s going to be exciting for our kids.”
FOOTBALL SEASON KICKS OFF TONIGHT
Two-a-days are complete, rosters are set and game plans have been installed.
The majority of South Sound teams kick off Friday, but Capital begins its season at 7 tonight on the road at Class 4A Newport High School in Bellevue.
It’s the first game of a tough nonleague schedule for the Cougars, who dropped down to Class 2A and also will face 4A foes Olympia, Bellarmine Prep and Bothell.
Sandwiched in-between is Capital’s 2A Evergreen Conference opener Sept. 22 against two-time EvCo champion Tumwater.
Capital and Newport have never faced each other in football.
In fact, the last time Newport faced a team from Thurston County was in 1993, when Tumwater defeated Newport, 31-30, in double overtime in the Class 3A state semifinals.
The Knights, who went 4-5 in 2011, feature senior quarterback Isaac Dotson (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), who gave an oral commitment to Nevada in June. As a junior, Dotson threw for 1,073 yards and rushed for 741 yards in Newport’s triple-option offense.
Capital, coming off a 3A state quarterfinal appearance in 2011, has a wealth of experience returning on both sides of the ball. Senior running back Kai Van Sickle rushed for 1,903 yards and scored 15 touchdowns last email@example.com 360-754-5473 www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick