High School Sports

WEEK 8: Making the Call

Question: Not every high school football stadium in Whatcom County has a play clock for offensive teams to use. When there is not a play clock, how do refe-rees watch for delay of game penalties and how do offenses know that time is running out before they will be penalized?

In fact only Civic Stadium in Bellingham has the 25-second clock operational in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

This year we have experimented in two high school games at Civic using the 25-second clock, and from the officials’ standpoint, we would love to see it incorporated into a requirement for all varsity fields. Currently it is optional as to whether or not a high school will choose to use the device.

All NCAA games require its use, so when Western Washington University plays, the 25-second clock is always activated. This requires two clocks, one at each end of the field. Both must be operational or they are turned off and the time is then kept on the field similar to the high school situation.

For high school games when no field clock is used, the 25-second count is kept by the back judge. This is the individual who stands approximately 20 to 25 yards deep in the defensive backfield. Each back judge is required to carry a timepiece to keep this timing function.

The count starts when the referee (white hat) blows his whistle to start a new down. This occurs after the down box is set and the referee is sure all officials are in proper position. When five seconds remain, the back judge raises his hand over his head and holds it in the air until the ball is snapped or the five seconds have expired. He is the only member of the five-man crew who calls delay of game.

Coaches and quarterbacks are reminded as to the mechanic before the start of each game. Often a coach will request a timeout when they see the back judge with his hand in the air, thus avoiding a costly delay of game penalty.

The back judge also keeps all timing requirements, such as the time between quarters, during timeouts and after a team scores. In addition, the back judge also is responsible for having a stopwatch available in case the main scoreboard clock goes out, requiring time to be kept on the field.

Larry LaBree is the assignor for Whatcom, Skagit and Island officials and is a veteran of 36 seasons of high school football in Whatcom County. If you are interested in becoming a high school referee, contact LaBree at llabree@comcast.net. If you have a question about high school football rules that you would like to ask the referee, please e-mail david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com.