Joe Mertzel began officiating high school football games in 1966, not long after he graduated from Gardiner Area High School where he was a three-sport athlete.

“Alex Somerville gave me a call,” Mertzel said of the former principal and football official. “I wanted to stay involved.”

Mertzel took classes during the summer and officiated his first game at Erskine Academy that fall. He’s officiated hundreds of game since. Wednesday night he was honored in a ceremony at Bowdoin College by the State of Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Inc., along with three other special award recipients and 16 scholar athletes.

Bad knees forced Mertzel from the field to the scorer’s clock four years ago, but he still appreciates the players, coaches and fellow officials he deals with Friday nights and Saturday afternoons during the fall.

“I’ve met a lot of great kids,” he said. “Eventually some of their sons came along and I got to met them.”

Mertzel was nominated by the Augusta Chapter of Officials of which there are about 80 members. Past recipients from the chapter include Frank Barclay and Erwin Clements.

Mertzel, who has umpired baseball for 25 years, said the toughest part of officiating football is applying the rules.

“It takes a lot to get into the book and know your rules so you don’t shortchange anybody when you’re out there,” he said. “You also have to relate them to the kids.”

Other honorees include Coach of the Year Tim Roach of Wells; Bob Fallon for his contributions to amateur football in the state for over four decades; and University of Maine broadcaster George Hale who will receive the Distinguished American Award.

The 14 high school and two college recipients were chosen for academic achievement along with contributions to football. Winslow’s Shane O’Connell was among those honored. A two-tear starter at flanker and safety, O’Connell ranked fourth in his class of 118 with a grade point average of 4.0. Active in his school, church and the community, he is a National Honor Society member who earned Phi Beta Kappa recognition.

The other high school scholar-athletes included Christian Deschenes and Cameron Olson of Cheverus, South Portland’s Logan Gaddar, Leavitt’s Jordan Hersom, Thornton’s Luke Libby and Thomas Madden, Logan Mars of Scarborough, Mountain Valley Izaak Mills, Westbrook’s Graham Strondak and Sanford’s James Titcomb.

This year’s prep school nominee was Jeffrey Arnell of Bridgton Academy while the college honorees were Kevin Helm of Bates and Ian Vieira of Bowdoin.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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