Changing the Rules
Every High School Football season brings some changes with the rules and this year is no exception. Of initial significance is the play clock. Until now, High School had used a :25 clock that began when the ball was positioned and ready for play. As of the 2019 season, the clocks will expand to :40, equal to the collegiate and professional ranks, once a play halts with a resetting at :25 following a timeout, scoring play, penalty, or injury.
A couple of other rules changes effective this season are meant to reduce injuries. First, tripping of any runner had been allowed in high school football, but is now a 15-yard major penalty. The other change extends the area for a horse-collar tackle foul to just above the numbers on the back of a player's jersey. Speaking of numbers, some of our broadcasters, as well as the officials, have had trouble identifying players because the colors for their numbers were too similar to the rest of their jerseys. High schools have been given 5 years to come up with uniforms in which the numbers would be easier to see.
In other rules changes, illegal kicking or batting a football will be penalized 10 or 15 yards, and offensive formations must have at least 5 players on the line of scrimmage, including no more than 4 backs.
One other key rule change for this year is based on what happened in 2017. A questionable officiating call affected the outcome of a football championship game in Georgia that year. This may have led to a new rule that gives state associations the option to use video replays for such events.
Kentucky and Indiana are not expected to use that option right away. In a statement last February, KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett noted that while the officials want to get the call right, "the devil is in the details." He cited not enough people to run the video, as well as not enough camera angles. Similar concerns were raised by Tackett's counterpart at the IHSAA, Bobby Cox, who also thinks that the matter is "something that could grow over time."
My opinion? The outcome of a Kentucky or Indiana football championship game would have to turn on a really bad call before either state association decides on using replays.
Already a state option in high school football is the "mercy rule", which makes the game go faster when one team has too big a lead in the second half. Kentucky has had one the last few years, with a 36-point margin. This season, Indiana will also get to speed up its games, with 35 points being the minimum difference.
So now that Indiana will allow football games to end early, here's hoping they follow Kentucky and do the same for basketball. But that's a different story.