Bay Area high school referee retires after 22 years on the field

The on set of the holiday season marks the winding down of another high school football season in the Bay Area. 

This year was Dennis DiFabio's 22nd and final year refereeing high school football in the East Bay. DiFabio said it was a bittersweet feeling as the game clock slowly ticked closer and closer to the double zeros. 

"During the game it was just a normal game," DiFabio said.  "At the end of the game as the ref you hold the ball above your head to signify the end of the game and I think that's when it hit me that wow that's the last time I'll get to do that."

Being a referee can be a thankless job-- often times one side always thinks you made the wrong call. And, it certainly isn't a high paying job. 

"You don't do this for the money," said DiFabio.  "You're not going to make a living doing it, it's an advocation, not a profession."

DiFabio has called some of the biggest games in California, including a CIF open division championship game. 

As he reflected on the memories, and countless games he has called, DiFabio said more than anything, refereeing is about giving back. 

"If you ask most officials why they officiate, by far the most popular answer is wanting to give back to a sport that gave something to them at some point or wanting to give back to the kids in general," DiFabio said. 

In 2003, DiFabio helped launch the East Bay Football Officials Association scholarship fund. 

The scholarship committee does not ask for donations or have corporate sponsors. Instead, the money comes directly from referees who chose to donate their game paychecks. 

"We pass a sheet around at one of the meetings and the guys say I'll donate one or two game fees," DiFabio said. 

On Wednesday, Difabio and other referees  presented three senior football players with money for college. 

Davion Castro, a defensive back from Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo has received two scholarships from the East Bay Football Official Association.

"People say high school sports are supposed to be the best time of your life," Castro said. "But, for me it was really hard."

Castro said he has managed to push through hardship, and said the scholarship money will help him reach his goals after graduation. 

Since 2003, the EBFOA has awarded over $65,000 in scholarships. 

There is currently a shortage of high school referees, if you are interested in participating, you can log on to your school districts website.