Crampton Hanging Up Official's Whistle After 46 Years of Giving Back

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

October 26, 2022

After most high school football games end, the referees typically head for the exits, get to the locker rooms and head home. Rarely do fans, players and coaches notice how they disappear. 

Southeast & BorderThings were a little different Friday night in Ottawa Lake. 

After Ottawa Lake Whiteford beat Pioneer (Ohio) North Central 30-0, the fans stayed in their seats, the players stayed in the handshake line and coaches gathered around as retiring referee Tom Crampton received his place in the spotlight. After nearly 50 years as a high school football referee, Crampton had blown his whistle a final time.

“I feel like I’m at that point,” Crampton said. “I wanted to go as long as I could. I’ve been fortunate to get to this stage.”

Crampton turned 76 in September. The Jackson native got his start as an official during the 1977-78 school year after hurting his knee in a flag football game.

“I was just running across the field and heard something pop,” he said. “I realized my playing days were over. I had a friend who was an official. He got me into it.”

For years Crampton was a football referee in the fall, basketball official in the winter and umpire in the spring. He gave up the other sports about a decade ago but never wanted to give up football, the game he learned as a 10-year-old growing up in Jackson under the tutelage of Howdy Woods.

“He brought sports into my life,” Crampton said. “He worked with the juveniles of Jackson County and was an official himself, I believe. All of us kids knew Howdy. He got me started in sports.”

Sports became a lifelong passion for the retired director of pharmacy for Henry Ford Allegiance. When he and his wife Colleen had children, he thought about stepping back from his referee duties, but his family wasn’t having it.

“My wife and children all encouraged me to keep doing sports,” he said. “When the kids were younger, I said, ‘I really need to taper this back,’ and they didn’t want me to. They followed me. My wife was my biggest fan. After I retired from work, I thought maybe it was time, but she would not let me quit.”

For years Crampton was a back judge. He transitioned to umpire a few years ago because he felt he was better equipped for that role than running up and down the field.

Crampton and Dauterman bring Whiteford and Pioneer North Central players together at midfield prior to Friday’s game. Chris Dauterman has been an official for 27 years and was a back judge for years before becoming a crew chief only few years ago. Crampton joined his crew when the group of officials he had been working with for decades disbanded due to retirements. 

“It’s hard to imagine being dedicated to a hobby that long,” Dauterman said. “That’s really what it is, a hobby. Nobody who does this is doing it for the money. They are doing it for the love of the kids and game. I give him all the respect in the world for putting up with the things he does for so long.

“His knowledge of the rule book and mechanics of an officiating crew is unbelievable,” Dauterman added. “I’ve worked with a lot of officials over the years. In the three years I’ve worked with Tom, he’s helped me transition from back judge to the crew chief. The knowledge he has is tremendous. It’s nice to have him as a sounding board. As another official, it means the world.”

Crampton lives in Lake Columbia, not far from Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. He primarily has done games in the Jackson area, including the Cascades Conference and Southeastern Conference the last few years. Friday he was doing a nonleague game between Whiteford and a school from northwest Ohio.

The game ended prematurely when North Central pulled its players off the field at halftime due to injuries and lack of available players to continue.

Before anyone left, however, Crampton was presented with a golden whistle and received a standing ovation for his years of service. After the handshakes, players from both sides greeted Crampton at midfield.

Crampton said most kids haven’t changed in the last 45-plus years he’s been on the field with them. Except for just a few players, most are respectful of him and the sport.

“When I played in the 60s, sports were an extension of the classroom,” he said. “It was learning things of life and that things don’t always work right. There are failures sometimes, but you go on and you pick yourself up and you respect those around you and the competition. 

“I think that has waned a little over the years, but most of the kids haven’t changed. Being a referee has been a great experience. I love being out with the kids. Most of the kids out there are great kids, great people. You just have to give them a chance.”

Crampton said he realized his time as an official was nearing the end about a year ago when he said he couldn’t quite get into the position that he wanted during a game. He hopes new officials sign up for the gig and continue the tradition of helping high school athletics.

“We’ve tried recruiting some new officials,” he said. “They were moving up fast now from lower levels to varsity. We’ve lost so many officials over the last few years. I couldn’t have done this without the support of the MHSAA. I’ve enjoyed being everywhere and meeting all the people.”

Crampton worked two MHSAA Finals games during his officiating career and has memories of great athletes, great coaches, and great games to last a lifetime.

“I’ve been fortunate my whole life,” he said. “I’ll miss it, there’s no doubt about it. This is my 66th year of football. How lucky can a person be?”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Retiring official Tom Crampton, middle, shares a laugh with referee colleague Chris Dauterman and Whiteford varsity football coach Todd Thieken before Crampton’s final game Friday. (Middle) Crampton and Dauterman bring Whiteford and Pioneer North Central players together at midfield prior to Friday’s game. (Photos by Doug Donnelly.)

Moore Finishes Legendary King Career by Leading Crusaders to D3 Repeat

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

November 27, 2022

DETROIT – Dante Moore had no tears left to cry Saturday night, even happy tears, after he played his final high school football game for Detroit Martin Luther King at Ford Field.

“Everybody sees I’m not crying – I really cried before I got here to the game. Before I walked to the gate, I was crying and I cried last night,” Moore said.

King’s four-year starting quarterback cemented his legacy, leading the Crusaders to their second-straight MHSAA Division 3 championship with a 56-27 victory over Muskegon.

The Oregon commit finished 21-of-26 passing for 275 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions to power King (10-3) to its sixth Finals title overall and fifth in eight years.

Before Moore even took the field for his first offensive series against Muskegon (11-3), junior Jameel Croft Jr. staked King to an immediate lead with an electrifying 96-yard return of the game’s opening kickoff.

The Crusaders never looked back.

“I wasn’t expecting that. I just followed my blocks. Guys were blocking for me and the coaches set it up perfectly for me, for real,” Croft said. “It gave us a lot of momentum in the beginning of the game. It helped us out a lot.”

Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. Muskegon pulled within 14-7 midway through the first quarter and 21-14 three minutes into the second, but Moore & Co. always seemed to have an answer.

Croft scored the game’s first two TDs, as he added a 13-yard scoring catch from Moore to make it 14-0 with 6:28 left in the first quarter.

“We started out chasing. We gave up that opening kickoff for a touchdown and we just got ourselves chasing and kind of things went from there,” said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield, whose team trailed 35-14 at halftime and pulled within 14 with five minutes left in the third but got no closer.

Croft was Moore’s top pass-catcher, finishing with six receptions for 64 yards and two TDs. Senior Sterling Anderson Jr. was a blur as King’s top rusher, totaling 207 yards on only 13 carries, highlighted by his 80-yard scoring sprint that gave the Crusaders a 49-27 lead with 10:55 remaining.

Seniors Samuel Washington and Tim Ruffin paced King defensively with nine and eight tackles, respectively. For Muskegon, senior Julian Neely registered a team-high seven stops, while junior Stanley Cunningham recorded two sacks among his six tackles.

Muskegon junior quarterback M’Khi Guy ran 20 times for 135 yards with two TDs, including a 60-yard breakaway to pull the Big Reds within 14-7 midway through the first quarter. He also completed 2-of-4 passes for 97 yards, including a 71-yard scoring strike to junior Destin Piggee.

Muskegon junior Jakob Price added 93 rushing yards and a TD on 17 carries, but the night belonged to King and Moore.

“There’s no excuse: That kid is amazing. He threw balls that we haven’t seen probably in my career,” said Fairfield, whose program was seeking its first Finals title since 2017. His Big Reds teams have been to the Finals to finish eight of his 13 seasons at the helm.

“Only one other guy threw touchdown passes like (Moore) and passes and balls like that in my career here, and that was (Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s) Alex Malzone – went to Michigan. Seems like we always see the (Dequan) Finns and the Dantes and Malzones and stuff when we get here, but you know, we’re here,” added Fairfield, whose 2018 squad lost to Finn and King, 41-25, in the Division 3 championship game.

King coach Tyrone Spencer said that his team overcame a lot of adversity this season. The Crusaders could not practice on their field because it’s undergoing a makeover, so they bussed to practice. They lost their season opener to Warren Central (Ind.), 44-26, and dropped the final two games of the regular season to Detroit Cass Tech (28-14) and Cincinnati Moeller (30-14).

King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.The Crusaders got it going in the playoffs, however. They threatened the Finals record for points by one team, established Friday night by Grand Rapids West Catholic with 59.

“(The season) was up and down, but the kids, I mean, they trust us and we got it back going,” Spencer said. “They’re a resilient group of kids. It speaks to their character.”

Moore mentioned the “championship culture” at King, how one expects to be a champion once he puts on that jersey.

It’s also about giving back and respecting the game, too, which has been a custom of Moore’s since his freshman year when King lost to Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 Final, 35-26.

“My freshman year, me playing against Brady Rose and Muskegon Mona Shores, I remember Brady Rose pulled me to the side and that’s where I really got it from – him taking me to the side, telling me things I can work on, and me congratulating him for what he’s done and being one of the best players to come through Michigan to be honest and leading his team on his back,” Moore recalled.

“I just knew that I had to carry that on through this past year and really pull the (opposing) quarterbacks to the side, especially (those) younger than me. Me being a senior, I’ve been through a lot. I just want to give them the keys and terms to help them be the best they can be in high school.”

Croft called the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Moore a “great leader,” who is “so poised” and one who will leave “a great legacy right here for sure.”

“Special, man,” is how Spencer reflected on Moore’s four-year run.

“You know, he’ll be the one that they’ll talk about maybe the greatest we’ve ever had here,” Spencer said. “Just really proud of him and the person that he is. He deserves it. He works hard for it, and I just couldn’t be more pleased. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Meanwhile, Muskegon got off to a bit of a slow start this season by Big Reds standards. They lost two of their first five games, including a 49-16 road defeat to eventual Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate, but got healthy and played their best football at the right time leading up to Saturday night.

Fairfield said the Big Reds battled and left it all on the field.

“They played 14 and when you play 14 games, of course this is going to hurt more because it’s the very last one and now you’ve got 364 days to get back,” he said.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit King’s Samuel Washington (10) wraps up Muskegon’s M’Khi Guy during Saturday’s night’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. (Below) King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.