American football started becoming popular in the late 1800s. The first professional game was played in 1892, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that high school football became a widely recognized sport. That’s the year when the American Professional Football Association, now known as the National Football League (NFL), was formed.
Nowadays, high school football is one of the most popular sports in America. Every fall, millions of Americans tune in to watch their favorite team compete. The stakes are high, and the games are exciting. Whether you’re a fan of high school football or not, it’s hard to deny that these games are an important part of American culture.
And with football being so pervasive in American culture, it’s no surprise that people want to know how long a high school football game lasts. Especially since, often, playtime feels minuscule compared to the time spent tailgating or waiting for halftime.
In this article, you are going to learn the intricacies of game length in highschool football. You will find out how long each quarter is and how much time is allotted for halftime. You will also get a general sense of how long the game should last from start to finish. So, if you’ve ever wondered “How long does a high school football game last?”, read on.
Dissecting a Typical High School Football Game
A high school football game is divided into four quarters, each lasting 12 minutes. At the end of the first and third quarters, there is a two-minute intermission. Then, at halftime, there is a break that lasts around 20 minutes.
Now, you might be wondering why the quarters are only 12 minutes long. It seems like such a short amount of time, especially when you compare it to an NFL game, which has quarters that are 15 minutes long.
The answer to this question has to do with the fact that high school football games are played on a smaller field. The shorter field results in less time for the players to run plays and score points.
Also, high school players aren’t yet fully-formed athletes. They’re still growing and developing, so they can’t play at the same level as professional athletes. As a result, 12-minute quarters are plenty long enough to provide a fair and exciting game.
From start to finish, including halftime, a high school football game should last around two hours. That may seem like a long time, but it really flies by when you’re caught up in the excitement of the game.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If a game is particularly close, it may go into overtime. And if there are any injuries or other delays, the game will likely last longer than two hours.
In the case of injuries, each team is allowed three timeouts per half. These timeouts can be used to stop the clock and tend to the injured player. However, if a team uses all of its timeouts, it will not be able to stop the clock in the event of an injury.
But, in general, you can expect a high school football game to last around two hours/two and a half hours from start to finish.
The Important Milestones of a Football Game
Football games last a long time. But less than half of their duration is spent actually playing. We’ve already seen why in the previous section. What we want to talk now is what happens in between the playing.
The game starts with a coin toss. The winner of the coin toss gets to choose whether they want to receive or defer. If they choose to receive, the other team will get the ball first in the second half. If they defer, they will get the ball first in the second half but start on offense in the first half.
After the coin toss, each team lines up on opposite sides of the field for the kickoff. The kicking team kicks the ball to the receiving team, and they try to run it back as far as possible. Once they’re tackled, or if they go out of bounds, play stops and it’s now the receiving team’s turn on offense.
On offense, the goal is to score points by either kicking a field goal or scoring a touchdown. A touchdown is worth six points, and it can be scored by running the ball into the end zone or catching a pass in the end zone. A field goal is worth three points, and it’s scored by kicking the ball through the goalposts.
If the offense doesn’t score, they have to punt the ball back to the other team. Play then switches, and the other team is now on offense.
This pattern continues until one team either scores or the clock runs out. There are four 12-minute quarters in a high school football game, so the game should last around 48 minutes if both teams are scoring.
However, as we mentioned before, the actual playing time is much less than that. There are breaks between each quarter, and a longer break at halftime. Plus, the clock stops whenever there’s an incomplete pass or a player goes out of bounds. When the clock stops, the players have to line back up and start the play again.
All of these delays add up, which is why high school football games last around two hours even though 48 minutes is the maximum amount of time that could be spent playing.
The Times to Look For in a Football Game
Now that we know how long football games last, let’s take a look at some of the key times that you should be aware of if you’re watching one.
These will be part of every single football game you watch, be it an high school or NFL one. The durations themselves might vary (for example, a quarter in high school football is shorter than one in the NFL), but the key events will always happen.
A quarter is one-fourth of the game. There are four quarters in a football game. Their duration depends on the level of football. In high school football, each quarter is 12 minutes long. In college and NFL football, each quarter is 15 minutes long.
Thus, the total playing time in a high school football game is 48 minutes.
Halftime is the break between the second and third quarters. It’s when players leave the field and go to their locker rooms. They usually have about 15 minutes to rest and strategize before the second half starts.
Halftime is when you get commercial TV timeouts, so it’s a good time to take a break if you’re watching the game at home.
Overtime is when the game is tied at the end of regulation, and both teams have to play an extra period to determine a winner. In high school football, each team gets one possession from the ten-yard line. If both teams score, or if neither team scores, then another overtime period is played. This pattern continues until there’s a winner.
In college and NFL football, each team gets one possession from the 25-yard line. If both teams score, or if neither team scores, then the next overtime period is played using sudden death rules. This means that the first team to score wins the game, even if it’s a field goal.
Sudden death rules are used until there’s a winner.
Editor’s note: Another important thing to note is the two-minute warning. This is when the game clock is stopped and restarted when there are two minutes left in each half (i.e. in the second and fourth quarter). This acts as a timeout and as a way to notify players that the game is almost over.
Why Do High School Football Games Last So Long?
As we’ve seen, high school football games last a long time because there are a lot of breaks between plays. But why do these breaks exist?
One reason is that high school players need more time to rest than professional athletes. They’re still growing and developing, so they can’t play at the same level as professional athletes. As a result, 12-minute quarters are plenty long enough to provide a fair and exciting game.
Another reason is that the clock stops more often in high school football than it does in the NFL. In the NFL, the clock only stops when there’s an incomplete pass or a player goes out of bounds. But in high school football, the clock also stops after first downs and touchdowns.
This is because high school football games are designed to be as exciting as possible. That way, more people will come to watch the games and support the team. If the games were shorter, they wouldn’t be as exciting, and fewer people would want to watch.
So, if you’re ever wondering why high school football games seem to last forever, now you know. It’s not just because there are a lot of breaks between plays. It’s also because the quarters are shorter and the clock stops more often.
High school football is a huge opportunity for young athletes to develop their skills and compete at a high level. Especially since this is where most college and professional athletes get their start.
If they manage to impress a scout during their high school career, they could be offered a spot on a college team. From there, they could have a chance to go pro and play in the NFL.
But even if they don’t end up going pro, playing high school football is a great way to make friends, stay in shape, and have fun.
Football games are designed to be exciting, so they tend to last a long time. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The longer duration gives players more rest and allows the clock to stop more often, making the game more exciting.