If you have been paying any attention to high school sports over the last decade, and especially 5 years, you probably could have guessed this was coming.

The number of high school officials for athletics have been declining rapidly and now it has been announced that teams will have to play modified schedules to allow the few remaining officials to be able to cover all the games.

And it looks like that won't even be enough.

I, personally, have always loved the tradition of Friday Night Lights for high school football we've had here in the Rockford area. All the area schools have always had a field to play on Friday nights and it was what you did when you were in high school.

I remember finding out in college that not every high school played their football games on Friday nights. Some of them played on Saturday afternoon. I even went to a Saturday afternoon game when I went to visit a friend in the suburbs one weekend. It was not nearly as fun or cool as playing on a Friday night.

But that is what will be happening to a handful of area games this upcoming Fall season.

RockfordRegisterStar - In the NIC-10, Freeport and Harlem will both play three Saturday games. Freeport opens the season noon Saturday vs. Belvidere North and then follows the next two weeks with 3 p.m. Saturday games against Belvidere and Auburn.

And the only reason for this is the local, and national, shortage of high school officials. According to that Register Star article, the number of registered officials in the state of Illinois has fallen from about 14,000 to less than 10,000 the last decade.

When you account for the hundreds, if not thousands of officials that were certified in more than one sport, you can see that this is affecting more than just high school football.

Baseball games have been played with one umpire. Basketball officials were working dozens of games over the course of a weekend with little to no rest between games.

The pay is decent, anywhere from $60-$100 per game, but the rising cost of gas and the constant abuse officials have been seeing from parents and coaches over the last decade have made it not worth it.

As a former official, I can attest that the job is tough but very rewarding if done right. If high school officiating is something that would interest you, please, please, please, sign up to become an official. It's a great way to give back to the community.

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