How to Operate the Clock in a High School Football Game

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The clock operator at a high school football game is a position that needs to be performed with a great level of care. Football has always been called a game of inches and seconds. One extra inch on the field or one extra second on the scoreboard clock can create an unfair advantage for one of the teams. The clock operator must know the correct National Federation of State High School Associations football timing rules inside and out before he can operate the clock at a real game.

  • Stopwatch

1 Set the pregame clock

Set the pregame clock and let it run 30 minutes before the start of the game. This lets the two teams and referees know when the game should start. Set each quarter to 12 minutes; after the second quarter, the two teams are given 15 minutes for halftime.

2 Stop the clock after every touchdown

Stop the clock after every touchdown, field goal or safety is scored. The referee should blow his whistle when one of these plays occurs, which is your signal to stop the clock.

3 Identify the nearest referee to the play

Identify the nearest referee to the play when the game action is close to one of the sidelines. If a player goes out of bounds the clock needs to be stopped. The referee will signal you by waving his arm around in a circle if the clock needs to continue to run. If the clock needs to be stopped, the referee will blow the whistle and raise one hand in the air as he stands on the spot where the runner went out of bounds.

4 Start the clock

Start the clock on the kick-off to start games, quarters or after a score only after the receiving team's player has touched the ball. Locate the referee nearest the kick returner. This referee will have one hand raised in the air; he will then drop that hand to his side once contact with the ball has been made. For an on-side kick, be prepared to quickly stop the clock once the play is signaled dead by the referee. On-side kicks usually only last 2 to 3 seconds

5 Allow the clock

Allow the clock continue to run if the player with the ball is downed in the field of play. This is one that could trick you as the clock operator, because the referee will blow their whistle, but that only indicates the player is down and the play is over. However, if the play ends close to the mark for a 1st down, the referee may request a measurement. If this happens, the referee will blow his whistle again and wave both of his hands over his head to signal to you that the clock needs to be stopped.

6 Be to stop the clock

Be prepared to stop the clock for a lot of different plays in the last 2 minutes of a half or game. A team's quarterback may choose to spike the ball to stop the clock. If this happens, the clock continues to run until the quarterback has received the ball from his center and then throws the ball directly in the ground. The referee will blow the whistle to signal you to stop the clock.

7 Inform the referees

Inform the referees if the clock is not working properly. If this happens, you will need to keep the clock on the stopwatch you brought. The referees will need to be kept informed of the current time left. Tell them after every 5 minutes of clock, at the 2-minute warning and every 30 seconds after the 2-minute warning what the correct time on the field should be. If the clock becomes functional again, do not change back until after the end of the quarter.

8 Stop the clock

Stop the clock if there is a team timeout, a referee timeout or after the play has been signaled dead and there is a penalty flag on the field.

9 Allow the clock-2

Allow the clock to remained stopped and do not start it during extra point attempts or 2-point conversion attempts.

Anthony King is a freelance writer and amateur filmmaker. His work has appeared in various online publications. He is currently working toward graduating with a B.A. in English-writing.