The play clock between downs in high school football is changing beginning with the upcoming season.
In an effort to establish consistency with the clock, the National Federation of State High School Associations has adopted a 40-second clock instead of 25 seconds between plays. With a few exceptions, the play clock will now begin at the conclusion of the previous play instead of waiting for the official’s signal once the ball is placed for the next down.
The new 40-second play clock will begin immediately when the covering official signals the end of a play – such as when a runner is marked down or a pass is incomplete. There will be no signal from the referee to start the play clock. The ball will be live when the game official places it on the ground and steps away.
Houston head football coach Eric Sloan said he believes the change – which matches the collegiate play clock – will speed up the game and his team’s offense. Sloan calls the Tigers’ plays.
“Usually we’ll see where the spot of the ball is and go with what we like,” Sloan said. “We better be thinking a little faster.”
Examples of game scenarios and how the new 40-second play clock would be used include:
•The offense’s runner is stopped in bounds short of a first down. The game clock continues to run and the 40-second play clock is started immediately except at the end of a fourth down.
•The offensive runner is stopped inbounds beyond the line-to-gain (first down). The game clock is stopped for the first down and the 40-second play clock is started immediately. The referee will then restart (wind) the game clock (no whistle involved) as quickly as the football is placed on the ground and ready for play.
•An offensive team’s legal, forward pass is incomplete. The game clock is stopped and the 40 second play clock is started immediately. The game clock will not start again until the next legal snap.
The exception to the referee starting the game clock would be if the 40 seconds runs past 25 seconds and the football is not yet on the ground ready for the next down. The official would signal for 25 seconds on the play clock with a pumping motion with one hand up and down.
The 25-second play clock will continue to be used in a few instances, such as after a score, inadvertent whistle, timeout or injury. The beginning of a period, change of possession, an untimed down or any play that involves a legal kick will also continue to use the 25-second clock.
“This is one of the most substantial game administration rule changes to be approved in the past 10 years,” said Todd Tharp, assistant director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee.
The play clock change was one of a handful of rules changes for 2019. The others are:
•Prohibition of tripping the runner. It is now a foul to intentionally use the lower leg or foot to obstruct a runner below the knees.
•Reduction of the penalty for illegal kicking and batting. The yardage for the infraction is now 10 yards instead of 15.
•Additional horse collar penalty. Grabbing the name plate area of the jersey of the runner, directly below the back collar, and pulling the player to the ground is now an illegal personal contact foul.
•Redefined requirements for a legal scrimmage formation. At least five offensive players are required on the line of scrimmage with no more than four backs. The change was instituted to make it easier to identify legal and illegal offensive formations.
•Improved visibility of numbers. The committee clarified the size requirements for jersey numbers through the 2023 season and also added a new requirement that, effective in the 2024 season, jersey numbers must be a single solid color that clearly contrasts with the body color of the jersey.
•Allowance of video replay for state playoffs. By state association adoption – and the Missouri State High School Activities Association said it will not – instant replay may only be used during state postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. This adoption would allow state associations to develop protocols for use of video replay.