It’s rare when fans and coaches at a high school football game demand to take pictures with the officiating crew after the game.
Then again, this was no ordinary officiating crew or occasion in Detroit on Sept. 21.
A game between Waterford Kettering and Detroit Lincoln-King was officiated by an all-female crew of referees, which is the first time in state history that happened during a high school varsity football game, according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
The crew consisted of referee Nicole Randolph, head line judge Caryn Jackson, line judge Delonda Little, umpire RanDee Henry and back judge Kamaria Douglas.
“When we all walked onto the field, the players were excited and the coaches were excited,” said Randolph, who is also an official for the Big Ten conference. “They said they wanted to take pictures at the end of the game because they had never seen this many female officials at a game.”
Jackson said at about noon on the day of the game, the magnitude of the moment and knowing what was about to happen really started to hit her.
Because of that, she posted what was about to take place on her Twitter account.
“It had 23,000 engagements in an hour,” she said.
When the game came and went, the occasion was still surreal.
“For my children, I always tell them to leave your mark wherever you go and whatever you do,” Jackson said. “Be a part of history. Who knew I would be refereeing high school, let alone doing it with all women? It feels good when I walk the football field and people are cheering just because they see a woman. People say ‘I’m glad you’re here, ref.’ I’ve had young boys walk up to me and shake my hand and say thank you for making history and that you’re the first female official I have had. That stuff makes me feel good. To do it alongside four other women, that was amazing.”
Douglas said whether it was in the parking lot or areas surrounding the field after the game, people came up to give the officials congratulations.
“People gave us kudos and flowers and said we did a nice job,” she said. “It’s one thing to get an opportunity, but also to go out there and do a good job. They want to see more of it. Waterford Kettering’s coach said he was the father of three girls, so it just warmed his heart. He came over and got a picture with us, which was really cool.”
Even cooler was the impact the crew likely made from this point forward.
“We went in and said, ‘Hey girls, this a great opportunity,’” Randolph said. “‘Let’s make the best of it so we can continue to open the doors for other young ladies to continue to aspire our footsteps.’”