By Kathryn Rice

With the shortage of officials for high school football games, two long-time football officials, James Pederson and John Clayton, are mentoring their children, Brenden Pedersen and Deanna Clayton, both first year football referees.

Claytons continue tradition

John Clayton has officiated football games for 25 years. He’s worked four state championships and numerous playoff games, and eight-man football games up to Class 6 schools. But the game he holds dear, is the junior high game on September 6 that he officiated with his daughter, Deanna, at her first football game during the Nodaway Valley vs Stewartsville/Osborn game in Graham.

“As a dad of only girls I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to officiate a football game with one of them,” John said. “When I started, female officials were scarce and female football officials didn’t exist. It is wonderful to see females having careers as officials; especially given the difficulty of recruiting and retaining new officials.”

Deanna is the first female football referee for the Northwest Missouri Officials Association.

“I have been involved in athletics from the age of three through college,” Deanna said. “Officiating is a way to continue the enjoyment of sports, just in another perspective. Growing up, I watched my dad officiate ball. Being on the field with him as another official has been a neat experience.”

“This makes a direct three generation lineage of football officials as my dad, her grandpa, officiated in the 60s and 70s,” John said. “He instilled a passion for sports in all three of his children, which in turn was passed on to the next generation. My nephew joined me on the field 14 years ago and I had the privilege of working a state championship with him a few years ago.

“I had planned to retire from active officiating and transition into helping train other officials at the end of this season, but I may have to buy stock in BioFreeze and Aleve and stick around for a few more years,” John said.

Deanna and John Clayton officiated their first varsity game together, October 8.

Pedersens love the game

At any given game, there could be as many as three Pedersens in the zebra shirts as James, Brenden and David Pedersen are busy being officials of football games.

James Pedersen started as a statistician during high school for basketball and football.

“I watched the refs and said I was going to do that one day,” Pedersen said.

He officiates mainly football but also can referee baseball and softball. He said officiating football is good for people who work full time as the games start later in the afternoon. Softball and baseball games start earlier in the day, so are sometimes harder to fill with a full-time job.

Pedersen is excited for Brenden to be officiating. Brenden makes the third Pedersen to be officiating football, as James’ brother David has also been refereeing football for 13 years. The three have officiated a few games together including Brenden’s second varsity game.

James said, “If you like sports, it’s not about the money. It’s about the sport and helping the kids. Without officials the game can’t be played. Having Brenden working with me is a great honor and accomplishment.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Friday night lights and I thought it would be a great way to get back into the action,” Brenden said about starting to be a referee. He is a 2019 graduate of Maryville High School.

“The experience that I have had while reffing has been great,” he said. “It’s like having another family there to share and enjoy the same love for the game you have.

“I hope to continue to ref and improve my skills, so that the next generation of football players can have the same opportunity that I did to play the game they love. There is a shortage of refs which are a very important part of the game, because without refs, there is no game.”

James’ brother, David Pedersen said, “I enjoy doing football. I’m familiar with the sport. I enjoy the kids and the effort they put in to it, talking to the coaches and the ball boys on the sidelines. I look forward to Friday.”

To become a high school athletic official is relatively easy. New officials can register at any time during the year without incurring any late registration fees. Prior to certification, they must submit the disclaimer and pass the Part I test.

For more information about becoming a game official, visit and click on the officials tab. Registration fees for the first sport is $65, second sport is $30 and additional sports are $25 each. For more information, individuals should contact the Missouri State High School Activities Association office at 573.875.4880.