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2017 Conference Championships

Clete Blakeman and Ed Hochuli will officiate Conference Championships

Football Zebras has confirmed that Clete Blakeman will lead the crew for the AFC Championship game and Ed Hochuli will be the referee in the NFC Championship.



Football Zebras has confirmed that Clete Blakeman will lead the crew for the AFC Championship game and Ed Hochuli will be the referee in the NFC Championship.

In an interesting development, several officials have received their second on-field playoff assignment for this season. Traditionally, those officials who receive two playoff assignments are the Super Bowl officials, who also work a Divisional playoff. However, in this case, these assignments are the first doubles in a single season, without a Super Bowl assignment, since 2004. There was some indication that the procedures were going to be altered slightly this year, as more than 20 officials will not get any assignment this postseason.

Officials are eligible for the Conference Championships in their third NFL season, provided that they also have an assignment in a playoff game in a previous year. Two officials, Aaron Santi and Shawn Smith, are in their third season, with two more in their fourth season.

Three alternates are assigned to each game: generally, one is designated for the offensive backfield (a referee or umpire), one is on the line of scrimmage (down judge or line judge), and one is a deep position (side judge, field judge, or back judge). When alternates are listed, their position during the regular season is also given. The prior playoff experience that is listed for the crew chief includes his service as an NFL official, including as referee and any other crew position (excluding alternate assignments). 

All times are Eastern.

Sunday, January 21

AFC Championship Game, Jaguars at Patriots, 3:05 p.m. CBS

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Clete Blakeman is the referee, who is in his 10th season and 8th as referee. This is Blakeman’s 7th postseason assignment and his first conference championship; he also has worked 3 Wild Card Playoffs, 2 Divisional Playoffs, and Super Bowl 50, his most recent playoff assignment.

Before becoming an official, Blakeman was a second-string quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1984 to 1987. He started a handful of games, most notably a 70-0 shutout of the Kansas Jayhawks in 1986.

Blakeman, 53, came to the NFL from the Big 12 Conference in 2008. After a couple of seasons at field judge, he was promoted to referee in 2010. His career has been relatively clean of controversy, although Patriots fans will be quick to point to his crew’s role in 2013 as a pass interference flag in the end zone was picked up. The umpire and the back judge determined in a conference that there was no foul, prior to Blakeman joining the huddle, although his position on the field would not have given him any perspective to influence the decision.

Blakeman is a personal-injury attorney in Omaha, where he lives with his wife and two children.

      Yrs 2017 crew College Occupation
R 34 Clete Blakeman 10   Nebraska attorney
U 11 Fred Bryan 9 Allen Northern Iowa superintendent, juvenile correctional facility
DJ 28 Mark Hittner 21 Wrolstad Pittsburg State investment broker
LJ 79 Kent Payne 14 Cheffers Nebraska Wesleyan teacher
FJ 50 Aaron Santi 3 Torbert Southern Oregon middle school principal
SJ 109 Dyrol Prioleau 11 Blakeman Johnson C Smith manager, law firm
BJ 112 Tony Steratore 18 Boger California (Pa.) co-owner, supply company
  • Replay: Carl Madsen
  • Alternates: John Parry (R), Patrick Turner (DJ), Greg Gautreaux (FJ)

NFC Championship Game, Vikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m. FOX

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Ed Hochuli is the referee, who is in his 27th season and 25th as referee. This is Hochuli’s 26th postseason assignment, the most of any active official, which include 11 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 9 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XXXII and XXXVIII.

Hochuli, 67, worked his last playoff assignment in the Wild Card Playoff between the Falcons and Rams on Jan. 6. Along with other officials this year, he is working more than one game, and he is the first referee since Walt Anderson and Bill Carollo in 2004 to have multiple non-Super Bowl assignments in a postseason.

He ties Terry McAulay and Mark Hittner (working in the Jaguars-Patriots game) with 11 assignments to title games, combining conference championships and Super Bowls, as the most among active officials.

Hochuli lives in San Diego and is a founding partner of the Arizona-based law firm Jones, Skelton & Hochuli.

      Yrs 2017 crew College Occupation
R 85 Ed Hochuli 28   Texas-El Paso attorney
U 14 Shawn Smith 3 Hochuli Ferris State internal auditor
DJ 48 Jim Mello 14 Allen Northeastern facilities manager
LJ 59 Rusty Baynes 8 Hochuli Auburn-Montgomery general manager, safety services*
FJ 103 Eugene Hall 4 Boger North Texas federal agent
SJ 88 Brad Freeman 4 Cheffers Mississippi State sports park director
BJ 30 Todd Prukop 9 Corrente Cal State-Fullerton medical sales representative

*indicates full-time official

  • Replay: Tom Sifferman
  • Alternates: Carl Cheffers (R), Carl Johnson (LJ), James Coleman (SJ)

Cam Filipe is a forensic scientist and has been involved in football officiating for 12 years. Cam is in his fourth season as a high school football official. This is his ninth season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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