12/07/07 — Father, son to call 3-AA title contest

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Father, son to call 3-AA title contest

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 7, 2007 1:48 PM

CHAPEL HILL -- As father and son, Ron and Jeff Prince have been making memories for over 30 years.

Saturday afternoon will probably be the most memorable.

The pair, who both live in the area, are most likely the first father and son in state history to officiate in the same state championship football game. They'll take to the field Saturday for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-AA final between Greensboro Dudley and Charlotte Catholic.

Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.

"It's a big thrill," Ron, the elder Prince, said. "It's kind of like starting over again. I'm sure there will be the butterflies and excitement of being on the field. Not too many guys in the sport get to work with their sons on the field.

"I don't think any father and son has actually worked together in a state championship, but that hasn't been confirmed."

Ron, 59, serves as the division head for Applied Technology at Wayne Community College and has been officiating for 27 years after a friend invited him to give it a try.

On game days he serves as a referee, while his son Jeff, an Eastern Wayne graduate, works as a back judge. Aside from their love of athletics, they both admit it's the friendships they've developed with each other and other officials, along with the opportunity to give back to student-athletes, that keeps them coming back.

"Our relationship has gotten a lot closer," said Jeff, 33. "He's one of my best friends and he always will be. We have a great camaraderie together as well as with all the guys we ref with.

"It's a fraternity all its own. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's also a chance to give back to kids coming up and the sport itself."

While refereeing has strengthened old relationships and bred new ones for the Princes, it's also brought about plenty of training and hard work. Officials are required to attend clinics in the offseason to brush up on rules and to be informed of new ones. There's also the commitment it takes to physically able to officiate.

"There's a lot of preparation in terms of each year," Jeff Prince said. "We start before the kids start. Just from having played football, I thought I knew all the rules. There's a lot more to the rules of the game. Also, rules vary with high school, college and the pro.

"One misconception is people think what happens in college games on Saturdays is what should be happening on Friday nights."

Ron has worked one other state championship in 1994, and the father and son worked in the playoffs together for the first time three or four years ago. However, they were notified that they had been selected to work this weekend's championship game prior to the beginning of the playoffs.

Needless to say, the anticipation toward Saturday has been growing at a rapid pace.

"I can hardly wait for this weekend to come around," Ron Prince said. "Other than a Shrine Bowl or an East-West Game, this is the ultimate."