Darren Haas has never shied away from the spotlight.
The 46-year-old Crawfordsville native spends his Saturday afternoons in the fall officiating Division I football and over the last two decades has officiated 10 Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals across three sports.
But on Saturday, Haas will grab his stripes and whistle for the assignment all high school officials in Indiana dream of.
The boys basketball state finals.
“It was really neat last year getting to experience the girls side,” Haas said. “but when you talk about the boys state finals and basketball in the state of Indiana. I think this is a pinnacle piece.”
Haas worked his first girls basketball state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in 2020, has worked three football state championships, and six baseball at Victory Field. He said erasing the awe factor and the newness of an unfamiliar venue is the key to focusing in on the game at hand.
“That first experience you get under your belt and then you can work a game, because that’s what it’s really about is working a good game,” he said. “But it’s really hard the first time doing something like that, because of the awe factor.”
Haas will work the Class 1A game between Kouts and Barr-Reeve with Andy Simpson and PJ Pitts.
“One guy Andy Simpson, it’s his last game ever and hanging up basketball for good. I don’t know how many state finals this is for him, but it’s a lot. Maybe five or six on the boys side,” Haas said. “And then the other guy is PJ Pitts and PJ was one of my favorite officials when I was coaching. I loved the way he called the game and the way he talked to the coaches and the players. Two of the guys that I’ve learned a lot from I’m actually working this game with, so for me that’s pretty cool.”
Haas said through the COVID-19 season of 2020-21, he had just a few games canceled, but oftened picked up several last minute — working a total of 40 games this winter.
“I feel like the kids and the coaches just appreciated the opportunity to play. It was much more about being able to play and just appreciating the opportunity to do that,” he said.
And working with partners like Aaron Selby, Kevin Keen, Nate Robinson, Bryce Barton, Chad Hodges, Terry Baker, and Kevin Kirsch to name a few, continue to be the driving force for Haas to to travel around the state and work as many games as he does.
“I really enjoyed the season,” Haas said “I felt like it was a relief that we got to play, and I can’t tell you how many times I picked up games the day before. I did a lot. It’s more about me just enjoying myself. I love working with my partners, and I work with a number of different people. Just guys that are really enjoying the craft, trying to get better and I enjoy doing it because there’s always something I can get better at.”
Haas says he’s been fortunate over the years. Working his way up through the ranks in football and enjoying all the other sports along the way, and being able to check off another bucket list item on Saturday.
“It’s pretty neat,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate. My gosh 11 state finals, I’m 46 years old. I started officiaitng when I was 23. I’ve had some amazing partners and crews over the years and I appreciate their efforts and their critique. We all look out for each other and it’s a brotherhood that’s truly second to none.”