As coaches prep for the start of the high school football season, they’ll be dealing with a handful of rule changes brought down by the National Federation of State High School Associations that were enacted in February.

One of the most noticeable changes will be a change from a 25-second play clock to a 40-second play clock.

“The play clock will continue to start at 25 seconds (a) prior to a try following a score, (b) to start a period or overtime series, (c) following administration of an inadvertent whistle, (d) following a charged time-out, (e) following an official’s time-out, with a few exceptions, and (f) 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 will also 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.”

Labette County head coach Sean Price said this rule change will help with pace of play.

“I love it,” Price said. “We go faster. We’re always trying to snap the ball in eight seconds. So now hopefully I don’t have to wait for officials to spot the ball. That way, I can get a play in quicker.” 

Parsons head coach Kurt Friess added that the speed of the crew’s ability to spot the ball — whether fast or slow — could be mitigated with the change.

“We experienced a couple of different crews that really set the ball really quickly and got that 25-second clock going fast,” Friess said. “They did a good job of getting the ball in place. We struggled with communication at times.” 

Two other rules were implemented that focus primarily on player safety. The first is an addition to a ban on horse collar tackles. According to the NFHS rule change, “Grabbing the name plate area of the jersey of the runner, directly below the back collar, and pulling the runner to the ground is now an illegal personal contact foul.” 

“The horse collar causes more injuries than anything else,” Price said. “So that’s fine with me. Hopefully we’re not having to chase someone from behind anyways.” 

Another safety rule is that it is now prohibited to trip a runner intentionally with the lower leg or foot.

“I like both of those rules,” Friess said. “When you drag a player behind, that can end careers. I’ve never been a fan of horse collars. There’s a lot of injuries that can happen.” 

Another change by the NFHS is the change in the definition of a legal line of scrimmage. A legal formation now requires at least five offensive players on the line of scrimmage instead of seven, with no more than four backs. According the NFHS, this change will make it easier to identify legal and illegal formations.

“For a while, coaches got creative with modified punt formations where you have uncovered receivers stacked in the middle,” Friess said. “It made it hard if you lined up quick to identify the eligible players. You also have coaches that do a lot of shifting with guys stepping on and off. It made it hard to detect illegal formations.” 

The NFHS will also allow state associations across the country to adopt video replay review for postseason contests. There are currently no plans for the Kansas State High School Activities Association to adopt instant replay this year, but the association is now free to explore and develop protocol to do so if it desires.

“You wonder how you do that,” Friess said. “If you can get the call right, that’s great. But I don’t know how you’d have the ability to capture things in detail that are correct. If they would’ve had video replay, there was probably a two-point play for Sabetha against Pratt that gets overturned. If the costs can be worked out, it could be great. Officials are human and make errors, but they get most of the calls right.” 

The first day of practice for high schools in Kansas is Aug. 19.

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