Local Referee Named Football Official of the Year

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A long-time referee and Athens native was honored as the 2014-15 National Federation of State High School Associations Ohio Football Official of the Year last Friday.

John Keener was recognized at an Officials Hall of Fame banquet last week for his 43 years of refereeing at the high school level. Over that span, Keener officiated 30 playoff games, 18 state semi-final games, and six state championship games.

For Keener, who has since retired from officiating, said that receiving this award allowed his career to end on a high note.

“It’s a real nice honor, and it’s a real nice way to end your career,” Keener said. “You’re going to miss working with your crews, fellow officials. You’re going to miss some coaches, you’re going to miss the fans, and you’re going to miss helping the players.”

Keener was inducted into the OHSAA Officials Hall of Fame last year, highlighting a refereeing career that began in 1972 when he was 18-years-old.

He also worked several collegiate football games as a member of the Ohio Association of Football Officials and is currently on the officials staff for the Division III Ohio Athletic Conference.

Along with football, Keener also served as a baseball umpire for 37 years, working four state championship games, and 18 years as a basketball official.

“It’s just entirely different when you’re on the field or court. You have to listen to the coaches, you’re watching plays,” Keener said. “Over the years, the longer you’re in it, you see tons of things, and you learn from them hopefully.”

He was a part of the Football Training Committee, which wrote and enacted the first high school football officiating training program in the country, and served two terms on the OHSAA Hall of Fame Committee.

Keener, an Ohio University graduate, taught at Trimble Middle School for 32 years, in addition to serving as a three-sport official. He currently serves as the President and Rules Interpreter for the Athens Football Association.

“It’s an honor, a privilege, and I just hope I have represented all the other officials to the best of my ability,” Keener said.