When the Kentucky high school state football championship games kicked off this fall, two Kentucky Baptist pastors were on the officiating crew for the first of the six games.
Andrew Dyer, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in London, and Mike Helton, pastor of Springfield Baptist Church in Knox County, were on the seven-person crew that worked the Class A state title game, which saw Pikeville defeat Raceland 21–0. It was the first state championship game for both men to officiate.
“It was a very exciting experience and very humbling to get chosen to officiate it,” said Helton. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. I really feel blessed.”
RELATED: Check out more stories about football and ministry here.
The game was played without any controversy, although Helton found himself in a slightly uncomfortable position. He was the umpire on the crew, which called for him to spot the football to begin each play. “It wasn’t until the second quarter when I realized that I was on the Jumbotron on every play, and I don’t like that,” Helton said.
Helton, who is nearing his 11th anniversary as pastor of Springfield Baptist in the small community of Bimble, has been officiating football games during an 11-year span.
He and Dyer worked on the same officiating crew throughout the season and were the two officials chosen from their region to work the state title game.
“It’s enjoyable — it’s the only hobby I have,” Helton noted. “I really enjoy the game and being around the kids and maybe be a good influence on them, too. I played football and I coached my son. I’ve really enjoyed the game and want to continue to give it forward.”
Dyer started officiating in 2007 after returning from the mission field. He took several years off when his children were young, and then resumed it about five years ago.
He said that while he was pastoring in Harrodsburg for about a year, he realized he knew very few lost people.
“Most of the people I knew were believers, other pastors and church members. I needed to do something to have friends and acquaintances who were lost — that was one of my big motivators to begin officiating. God has used that throughout the years,” Dyer said.
“The Bible tells us whatever our hands find to do, do it with all your might. God is glorified in all things — I want to do my best for the glory of God, no matter what that is. I think officiating is one of the things we can do and glorify God in my life. For me, I am a follower of Christ in everything I do, and I want to represent Christ well in all I do, and that includes on the football field. My identity is in Christ — not in being a pastor or a football official, although I am thankful for both those roles.”
Behind the scenes
Dyer said that while officials are on the field along with players and coaches, he said it should be remembered that “we are humans, real people — we don’t ever want to be part of the story, but the story happens around us. That is a unique perspective — when kids get hurt, we understand it happens, but you hate to see that.”
Also on the crew was Kristie Combs, the first female to officiate a Kentucky high school football championship game. She is a member of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame after being a two-time All-State basketball player at M.C. Napier (now Perry Central) and MVP of the 1994 state tournament in leading her school to the state championship. In 2019, the National Federation of High Schools named her as recipient of the Spirit of Sport Award for overcoming adversity to compete in interscholastic activities. In the presentation, she was cited for “overcoming many obstacles to continue giving back to high school athletics as an official. She was diagnosed in 2016 with a brain tumor. After having the tumor surgically removed, she returned to her duties officiating 14th Region games “and giving back to the youth of eastern Kentucky.”