How Long Does a High School Football Game Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Posted on December 18th, 2022

Are you a fan of high school football? Do you feel like the games are over before they’ve even started? If so, then this blog post is for you! We’ll be discussing how long a typical high school football game lasts, as well as the different rules and regulations that can affect the length of a game. So grab your favorite snack and get ready to learn about football!

The Length of a High School Football Game

High school football games typically last between two and a half hours. They consist of four 12-minute quarters, halftime between the second and third quarters. The clock does not stop during the regular season except for timeouts and injuries.

Each team is allowed three timeouts per half and one in overtime, but no more than two consecutive timeouts. The halftime break is usually 15 minutes long but can be extended if there is a marching band performance. The clock will stop during the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters during the playoffs.

Additionally, coaches may call a play clock that can give them up to 40 extra seconds of game time each half. The play clock starts when the ball is marked ready for play and must be reset between plays. If the offense does not snap the ball within 40 seconds, they will be penalized for the delay of the game.

The clock may also stop during certain circumstances, such as injuries, penalties, or when an official must rule a play. Some rules govern when the clock starts and stops during punts, kickoffs, and other plays involving kicking.

Timeout Regulations

Each team gets three timeouts per half in the NFL, and each timeout is two minutes long. Any unused timeouts do not carry over to the next half. In high school football, each team gets three timeouts per game; each timeout is one minute long.

Unused timeouts may be carried over to the next quarter. During a timeout, both teams may replace players on the field, and each team can also request an additional 30 seconds for a substitution if needed.

Some states may also have different timeout rules for their high school football games. For instance, in New Jersey, teams are only allowed two timeouts per half, each one minute long. Additionally, unused timeouts cannot be carried over to the next half.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the state’s specific timeout rules before the start of the game to avoid any penalties or confusion during the game.

Halftime Breaks

Halftime is an integral part of the high school football game, giving the players time to rest and regroup before the second half of the game. Halftime usually lasts 12 minutes, which can vary depending on the state.

During halftime, there is usually an entertaining show or performance by a marching band or other group. This can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the state and the type of performance. This extended break gives the players a chance to recover and reset for the second half of the game. It also allows coaches to make any necessary adjustments or changes that they may need to make to ensure a successful second half.

Timeouts and Delays

Timeouts and delays are a necessary part of the game. However, they can significantly add to the length of a high school football game. Every time an official calls a timeout or a delay due to an injured player, the clock is stopped, and time is added to the game’s total length. The average amount of time added per timeout or delay is about two minutes, though this can vary depending on how long it takes for the teams to get back into position after the timeout or delay.

Preseason Games and Playoffs

Preseason games are not part of the regular season and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The length of the game depends on the rules of the state where the game is taking place. In some states, teams may play only the first half of each preseason game.

The playoffs are a single-elimination tournament after the regular season. Depending on the state, this could last anywhere from one week to several weeks. The length of each playoff game is typically the same as during the regular season. However, some states may use longer quarters or overtime rules to ensure that games do not go into too many extra periods.

In addition to these restrictions, some states may limit the days teams can practice for their playoff games. This helps ensure that players are not overworked or over-stressed leading up to the playoffs.

Time Limits for Overtime Games

The length of overtime periods varies depending on the level of play. In the NFL, games are limited to one 10-minute overtime period. NCAA football has no game clock running during the overtime period. For lower-level high school contests, only one overtime period is allowed and must end if the contest is still tied at its conclusion.

The overtime period is limited to eight minutes in most states but can be as short as four minutes in some states. Pee-wee football games have no overtime period. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, the teams usually play a tie game or switch to a modified form of sudden death, with the first team to score a touchdown being declared the winner.

Highest Scoring High School Football Games

Especially in the last few decades, some truly spectacular high school football games have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible.

Haven High School in Haven, Kansas defeated Sylvia High School by a score of 256-0 in 1926, the greatest recorded score in American football history.

The most recent record-breaking Inglewood High School beat Morningside High School by a lopsided score of 106-0 on October 29, 2021, in a game that featured 13 touchdown passes.

These games prove that high school football can be incredibly exciting and unpredictable, providing plenty of entertainment for fans and players alike. With such high scores, it is safe to say that these two games will remain in the annals of high school football history for many years to come.

Minimum Play Clock Requirements for High School Football

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has implemented a 40-second play clock to define better how long a game will take. This rule was implemented to establish a more consistent period between downs and make the game more efficient. The NFHS rule book allows for 12-minute quarters at the high school level, with teams getting three timeouts per half. Teams are also allowed to use one additional timeout for overtime games.

In addition to the 12-minute quarter requirement, the NFHS added a new exception to the play clock administration. This exception allows teams to use a 25-second play clock if the offensive team is in a no-huddle or hurry-up offense. This change helps to keep the game moving and prevents teams from taking too much time between plays.

Implementing a 40-second play clock is the most significant change to high school football in recent years, and it should help improve the game’s pace and keep it moving efficiently. Coaches should know this rule and ensure their players are prepared to play within the allotted time limit.

Different Rules for Different States

Regarding the length of a high school football game, it’s important to realize that different states have different rules. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) does not mandate a set game length or several quarters.

For example, in Missouri, the length of each quarter is determined by the grade level of the players. A game with freshman players would have 8-minute quarters, while a game with seniors would have 12-minute quarters. Some states also have different overtime rules and timeouts allowed.

In California, the rulebook states that the length of 4 quarters must be no less than 40 minutes, but no more than 50 minutes, with a 10-minute halftime break. This means that games in California can last anywhere from 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 50 minutes.

It’s important to be aware of your state’s rules when watching or participating in a high school football game. The NFHS rule book can provide all the details you need about playing times and any additional regulations that may apply.

Additional Length of Game Factors

In addition to the factors already discussed, there are a few other points to consider when determining the length of a high school football game. For example, the weather can impact the length of a game. If it is raining or the playing field is wet, the game may take longer due to the time taken to dry off the field.

In addition, if injuries during the game require medical attention, this will add time to the overall duration of the game. Finally, the number of players on each team can also affect the game’s length, as more players mean more time for substitutions.

How Can Coaches Utilize the Maximum Length of the Game?

High school football coaches can use the maximum game length to their advantage. For example, coaches can use the time to work on specific skills and strategies, such as plays and formations. Coaches can also use the time to talk to players and make adjustments on the fly.

Also, they can use the time to discuss strategy with fellow coaches and prepare for upcoming games. Finally, coaches can use the time to analyze films from previous games and adjust their game plans. By taking advantage of the maximum game length, coaches can help their teams become more successful and reach their goals.

Impact on Fans, Players, and Coaches

The duration of a high school football game can have a huge impact on the fans, players, and coaches involved. Longer games can lead to fatigue, which can lead to injuries and decrease the overall quality of play.

Also, long games can increase the number of penalties, as fatigue can cause players to make mistakes that could result in penalties. For fans, longer games mean more time spent at the stadium or in front of the television, which could lead to decreased attendance or viewership.

For coaches, longer games mean more time spent strategizing and making adjustments. As the game progresses, coaches must be able to adjust their strategies and make sure that their team is in the best position to win. Longer games also give coaches more time to assess the performance of their players and make changes as needed.

Overall, longer football games can significantly impact all parties involved. While some may prefer shorter games due to convenience and fatigue, others may prefer longer games due to increased excitement and suspense. Therefore, coaches and teams need to be aware of the potential impacts of longer football games and make sure they are prepared for all scenarios.


Football is an exciting and popular sport, and it is important to understand the full duration of a game. High school football games typically last two hours, with four 12-minute quarters, a 15-minute halftime break, and timeout regulations that can add additional length to the game.

This duration can be affected by overtime games, preseason games, and state regulations. It is also important to consider the impact of the game’s length on fans, players, and coaches. With proper planning and understanding of the rules, coaches can make the most of the time allotted for a high school football game.


Editorial Staff

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