Referee recalls magic of last year's 1-A final

By Wes Holtsclaw

   Last year's 1-A state championship football game was special. It was the first-ever BlueCross Bowl at Middle Tennessee State University's Floyd Stadium. And it was also headed up by local referee Dave Birkner.
   "It was a special event for all of us," recalled Birkner. "It was sponsored by BlueCross and BlueShield of Tennessee and the Marines. The Marine troops went out to the center of the field with me holding the red, white and blue.
   "Before the game they gave me a special coin with a battleship on it. I used that coin for the toss. Blue Cross gave us a special yellow flag with BC/BS 2000 on it, we used it in the game. We also recieved a pin and a coin for working it.
   Birkner has been an official for a little over 30 years. He has officiated between 40-45 playoff games, which averages 1 1/2 per year, which is a major accomplishment by a TSSAA official.
   "Each game is special," he said. "It's recognition by our peers, and it is great, but nothing compares to that game."
   Last year, Christ Presbyterian Academy beat University School of Jackson 49-27. CPA trailed by eight points late in the first half and scored 21 points in three minutes to turn the game into a rout.
   It was a record setting second quarter.
   "That was probably the longest quarter in playoff history. Fifty-six points and over 500 yards of offense."
   Birker believed the atmosphere was something unreal in high school sports.
   "It was overwhelming. It brings that tartan turf and takes on a college atmosphere. There is about 10-12,000 people in the stadium. It was the first time I ever had to wear a mic on my belt to announce the call. I have a full film on it and a ring with the TSSAA State Championship logo."
   The occasion was also a very special one for Birkner, as he lost a 26-year old son in an automoblie accident months before it.
   The officials dedicated that game to his son, and Birkner said he would never forget that.
   When asked what to expect, Birkner had this to say for the 'Lander fans:
   "Win or lose, the people of this area and those boys on that field will not forget it as long as they live. It truly is the big show."