It&8217;s Official: Natchez native&8217;s son a football star

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Only a football junkie like me would do what I did Friday night.

While looking for a bit more college football on television, I surfed the channels until I came on a channel called CSS. What I found was not more college football, but instead a Georgia high school playoff game. The teams playing were Creekside High School, of Fairburn, Ga., and undefeated Griffin.

The match up was in the AAAA. Creekside&8217;s quarterback was Eric Berry.

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Many will remember some earlier articles when I was doing &8220;Whatever Happened To?&8221; stories. I tried for several weeks to reach James Berry, a former North Natchez star who went on to an outstanding college career at Tennessee, where he served as team captain.

I never talked to James Berry, but I did discover that he has a son, Eric, who is a highly-recruited football player. In the game I saw Friday night, Eric Berry ran and passed his team to a 20 – 0 win over Griffin. He also played safety on defense, and one of the announcers said that several recruiting services list him as the number one cornerback prospect in the country, even though he has never played that position.

They said that the younger Berry has visited Auburn, and plans on seeing Southern Cal and Georgia. Though his dad played at Tennessee, the announcers did not seem to think the Vols are high on Eric&8217;s list.Only a couple of officiating calls in last weekend&8217;s college games bear discussing. I do not remember which teams were involved in either instance, nor do I know which conference assigned the officials. In the first instance, a team was trailing the opponent by less than a touchdown, with time running out in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth down and about four yards to go, pretty deep in their own territory, the team decided to punt the ball, hoping to maybe hold the other team and thereby get the ball back.

Before the snap, a defensive lineman jumped into the neutral zone, and the offensive lineman across from him reacted. The call was made that the offense had moved, and they were penalized five yards, from where they had no choice but to punt. Television replays showed that no offensive lineman had moved, but, since that type play is not subject to review, the call stood. The punting team never got the ball back and was unable to mount a final push to win the game.

For some officials, it seems that any time a defender jumps into the neutral zone before the snap, it means automatically that an offensive lineman must have moved.The second instance involved a back judge who made no attempt to &8220;sell&8221; his correct call when a player attempted to down a punt near the goal line. The official ruled that the ball had actually broken the plane of the goal line but he gave no signal, and the play had to be reviewed.

It is a shame that there seems to be no proving ground for young college football officials, and they have to try to come of age in front of 80,000 angry fans.And, that&8217;s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached by e-mail at