Your local football clock operator has probably been doing it for at least two decades. They’ve gone through a lot of changes and another big one is coming for Friday nights: The 40-second play clock.
The NFHS approved the use of the 40-second play clock for the 2019 season, something you’ve already seen at the collegiate level. While there are slight differences, the majority of the time, you will not even notice a difference.
Previously, the ball would be set and the head official, the white hat, would take his time starting the play clock. That’s not happening anymore. When the play ends, the 40-second clock will start ticking away once the previous play has been ruled dead.
“The main reason for the rule change is to remove the referee’s discretion when starting and stopping the play clock,” Greater Wichita Officials Association board member Troy Davis said. “Especially in a late, close game; it takes ownership away from the officials.”
The adjustment period will be there. Some schools, such as the Greater Wichita Athletic League, often hand the back judge the 25-second clock and allow them to keep it on the field. That’ll be kept in the press box now. This will once again allow the officials to focus on the game play and less on the clock.
“KSHSAA and our league commissioner have worked hard to get the information out and to create tools that will allow our coaches and most importantly our clock operator to understand the changes,” Andover Athletic Director Brent Riedy said.
For the smaller schools, it’s a bit much as time was before. Schools like Bluestem haven’t installed a play clock on the field. So, the discretion is still left up to the officials.
“We’ll have to work closely with the officials,” Bluestem Athletic Director Nick Barnes said. “We want to keep the going as smoothly as possible.”
It’ll be responsibility on the players and coaching staff. Players often drop the ball or toss it away, delaying the start of the 25-second play clock or just delaying the game in general. Now, you’ll see more players handing the ball to the officials, as to maximize their 40 seconds.
“We’re not going to reset the 40-second clock because a player threw the ball away,” Davis said. “That’s just time out of their play clock where we have to retrieve the ball.”
Where you could see the most stark changes is in the way the offense calls their plays. An offense who waits until 15 seconds to get the play in may have to move a little more swift in their offensive play. If the ball has been tossed aside, it may take 15-20 seconds off their play opportunity.
“Really, as officials, we want to be consistent week-to-week,” Davis said. “This allows us to do that.”
Charles Chaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ChuckChaneyBCTG
(Friday, 1:30 p.m.): An update was made to reflect Troy Davis is a board member of the GWOA and not active President.