High school football adopts 40-second play clock

MORE TIME TO DECIDE — Weir High head football coach Tony Filberto calls a play during postseason action against Fairmont Senior in the semifinals. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

The National Federation of State High School Associations announced Monday seven rules revisions for high school football, including the play clock beginning at 40 seconds instead of 25 seconds beginning this fall.

This change was one of seven rules revisions recommended by the NFHS Football Rules Committee at its Jan. 13-15 meeting, which were subsequently approved by the NFHS board of directors.

The play clock will continue to start at 25 seconds prior to an extra-point or two-point attempt following a touchdown; to start a period or overtime series; following administration of an inadvertent whistle; following a charged timeout; following an official’s timeout, with a few exceptions; and following the stoppage of the play clock by the referee for any other reason. In all other cases, 40 seconds will be placed on the play clock and start when the ball is declared dead by a game official.

Previously, the ball was marked ready-for-play when, after it had been placed for a down, the referee gave the ready-for-play signal and the 25-second count began. Beginning next season, in addition to the above situations when the 25-second count is used, the ball also will be ready for play when, starting immediately after the ball has been ruled dead by a game official after a down, the ball has been placed on the ground by the game official and the game official has stepped away to position.

Another significant change approved by the committee was the addition of a note to Rule 1-3-7 to permit state associations to create instant-replay procedures for state postseason contests only. This revision would allow game or replay officials to use a replay monitor during state postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. Use of a replay monitor would be on a state-by-state adoption basis, and the methodology for reviewing calls would be determined by the applicable state association.

With regard to uniforms, the NFHS Football Rules Committee clarified the size requirements for numbers on jerseys through the 2023 season and added a new requirement effective with the 2024 season. Clarifications to Rule 1-5-1c (in bold) that are in effect through the 2023 state that the numbers, inclusive of any border, shall be centered horizontally at least eight inches and 10 inches high on front and back, respectively. In addition, the entire body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) exclusive of any border(s) shall be approximately 1.5-inches wide. Finally, through the 2023 season, the body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) shall be either: A continuous color(s) contrasting with the jersey color; or the same color(s) as the jersey with a minimum of one border that is at least ™-inch in width of a single solid contrasting color.

Effective with the 2024 season, the entire body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) of the number shall be a single solid color that clearly contrasts with the body color of the jersey.

Two changes were approved by the committee in an effort to reduce the risk of injury in high school football. First, tripping the runner is now prohibited. Beginning next season, it will be a foul to intentionally use the lower leg or foot to obstruct a runner below the knees. Previously, a runner was not included in the definition of tripping. Second, in Rule 9-4-3k, the “horse-collar” foul was expanded to include the name-plate area, which is directly below the back collar.

A change in the definition of a legal scrimmage formation was approved. A legal scrimmage formation now requires at least five offensive players on their line of scrimmage (instead of seven) with no more than four backs. The committee noted that this change will make it easier to identify legal and illegal offensive formations.

The final change approved by the NFHS Football Rules Committee for the 2019 season was a reduction in the penalty for illegally kicking or batting the ball from 15 yards to 10 yards.

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