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Prep Coaches Question Timing of Rule

Football: Stopping the clock after a possession has plenty of people talking at length.


Football referee Terry Kipper remembers the first time he heard of the new National Federation rule he would have to enforce, the one that stops the clock after every change of possession.

"We all thought the same thing," Kipper said, speaking for his colleagues. "These games are never going to end."

They did end, but they seemed to take a little longer--some significantly longer.

Most high school football games averaged about 2 hours 15 minutes under the old rule, Friday's La Quinta-Westminster and Loara-Western games went 2:50, Dana Hills-Aliso Niguel went 2:49. Thursday's Santa Ana Valley-Mater Dei game went 2:50, Tustin-Foothill went 2:41, San Clemente-El Toro went 2:40.

"With the new rule, fans are going to have to bring sleeping bags to the games," El Toro Coach Mike Milner said. "Maybe a Coleman stove and lantern."

Not all games were all-nighters, but if the pass was used with any regularity, you could count on a longer night than normal. First impressions of the rule's first weekend in Orange County were mixed, but there were plenty who noticed its impact.

Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson looked at his watch during a 56-0 victory and discovered the first quarter took 52 minutes. Aliso Niguel Coach Joe Wood joked after his game that it was already bed time. La Quinta coaches closed the locker room as their final players left--after a 7 p.m. game--at 10:45.

In the case of San Clemente and La Quinta, their games were played on Thursday, which brings with it legitimate questions about starting times for events that might last so long.

"It would be great if the game would start at 7 p.m. [because] it's a school night," first-year San Clemente Principal James Walsh said. "I would certainly bring it up at a South Coast League meeting."

Even San Clemente Coach Mark McElroy, an adamant proponent of the rule--"the more you play, the more fun you have"--had an admission after going to bed at 11:45: "I remember it was tough to wake up the next morning."

Unlike the La Quinta game Thursday, the San Clemente-El Toro game began at 7:30 p.m. McElroy and Milner agreed it might be in the best interests of the participants to start a half-hour earlier.

The Empire, Orange, Olympic, Sea View and South Coast leagues begin their games at 7:30 p.m.; nonleague games vary. Playoff games also kick off at 7:30 p.m.

Kipper, who said a 2 1/2-hour game was rare last year, has a freshman son attending San Clemente. That school's rooter bus returned to campus (from Mission Viejo) between 11 and 11:15 p.m. Mater Dei's team bus returned to campus from Santa Ana Stadium at 10:50 p.m.

"I think for the Thursday night games, parents are going to start saying, 'What the hell's going on?' " Kipper said. "You're going to see the student body dwindle at those games. I don't want my own son out at 11 p.m. on a school night."

Kipper will officiate the Esperanza-Los Alamitos showdown Oct. 17 in Long Beach. "How many people from Esperanza do you think are going to go to that game?" he asked. The companion question: How many will make it to school on time the next day?

Bill Clark, Southern Section administrator in charge of football, and also an official, said the best estimates were that 10-15 minutes would be added to the length of a game.

Theoretically, he said, games were being extended by 25 seconds on 65% of the change of possessions, taking into account that 35% of the time the ball is dead because of a fair catch or out-of-bounds play. But the section must look at the situation if games are determined to be "significantly longer," he said, adding it could affect the kickoff time for playoff games.

"The National Federation [of State High School Assns.] was looking for consistency throughout the game, and this is consistent with college and pro rules--that's why we are where we are," Clark said.

"One of the things we were really concerned about was that more times than not, officials working the varsity games are also working an afternoon game and they would have to scramble from one game to the other."

Kipper said lower-level games (with 10-minute quarters instead of the varsity's 12) are usually over within 90 minutes of their 3:15 starting time. His son's freshman game a week ago "took well over two hours." That leaves little time to reach a varsity location by 6 p.m. to prepare (much less eat and change into a varsity uniform) with other officials and meet coaches and captains 30 minutes before kickoff.

It could create another problem for the three weeks after Daylight Savings Time--many freshman and sophomore games aren't played under lights.

Jeff Veeder, whose La Quinta team lost one of the weekend's longest games, 41-19, said his game "took forever."

"After the first half, I felt we had already played a full game," said Veeder, a first-year coach at La Quinta. "It was the longest first half I had ever seen. The score [28-7] had nothing to do with it."

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