WEST HAVEN — Officials will try for a better flow to high school football games this season, though referees may be a little quieter.
The familiar whistle and ready-for-play signal from the referee will be absent on many plays this season with a new play-clock rule. After most plays from scrimmage, the play clock will be set to 40 seconds from the end of the previous play, rather than 25 seconds from the referee’s signal that the ball is set.
Implementing the play-clock rule and keeping up the pace of play were among the points of emphasis Saturday morning at Notre Dame-West Haven in the Connecticut Football Officials Association’s 25th annual rules clinic.
It’ll rely on good communication among officiating crews as well as between officials and players, and on having a ball ready to come in from the sidelines when needed to move play along. If there is undue delay getting the ball ready for play while the 40-second clock is running, the officials have the option of bumping it back up to 25 when it is ready.
But most of the time, the umpire will be key to making sure the officials are ready to go, then letting the center know the ball is ready to be snapped. That signal could be verbal, could be a hand signal, could be both.
Snapping the ball before it’s officially ready for play will be a delay-of-game penalty against the offense.
The old 25-second clock and referee’s signal will remain in play after penalties, for instance, or at the start of a period, at a change of possession, before a point-after try, after a time out of most varieties.
In the flow of the game, though, it’ll be 40 seconds. That will apply even if the game clock is stopped for a first down, after an incomplete pass or after a runner goes out of bounds: The referee will give a silent wind-the-clock signal to the game clock operator, but the back judge or play-clock operator will already be running the 40-second play clock.
After a first down, officials may mark the spot with a beanbag and let play go forward even if the chains aren’t set yet.
Among other rule changes and clarifications, a formation is now legal with five linemen on the line of scrimmage and no more than four players in the backfield. Tripping a runner is now illegal.