High school football

Last updated
High school football
Eight-man football "Gun Formation".jpeg
An eight-man gun formation in a high school football game
Country United States
Governing body
National team(s)
First played1870
National competitions

High school football (French : football au lycée), also known as prep football, is gridiron football played by high school teams in the United States and Canada. It ranks among the most popular interscholastic sports in both countries, but its popularity is declining, partly due to risk of injury, particularly concussions. [1] According to The Washington Post , between 2009 and 2019, participation in high school football declined by 9.1%. [2] It is the basic level or step of tackle football.



The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) establishes the rules of high school American football in the United States. In Canada, high school is governed by Football Canada and most schools use Canadian football rules adapted for the high school game except in British Columbia, which uses the NFHS rules. [3]

Since the 2019 high school season, Texas is the only state that does not base its football rules on the NFHS rule set, instead using NCAA rules with certain exceptions shown below. [4] [5] Through the 2018 season, Massachusetts also based its rules on those of the NCAA, [6] but it adopted NFHS rules in 2019. [7]

With their common ancestry, the NFHS rules of high school American football are largely similar to the college game, though with some important differences:

At least one unique high school rule has been adopted by college football. In 1996, the overtime rules originally utilized by Kansas high school teams beginning in 1971 were adopted by the NCAA, although the NCAA has made five major modifications. Through the 2018 season, each possession started from the 25-yard line. Since 2021, this remains in force through the first two overtime procedures. In the second overtime, teams must attempt a two-point conversion after a touchdown. Secondly, triple overtime & thereafter are two-point conversion attempts instead of possessions from the 25-yard line, and successful attempts are scored as conversions instead of touchdowns.

Thirty-four states have a mercy rule that comes into play during one-sided games after a prescribed scoring margin is surpassed at halftime or any point thereafter. The type of mercy rule varies from state to state, with many using a "continuous clock" after the scoring margin is reached (wherein, except for specific situations, the clock keeps running on plays where the clock would normally stop). Other states end the game once the margin is reached or passed. For example, Texas uses a 45-point mercy rule (to stop the game) only in six-man football; for 11-man football there is no automatic stoppage but the coaches may mutually agree to use a continuous clock.


High school football in the United States is played almost entirely by boys. Over the past decade, girls have made up less than half a percent of the players of American high school football. [12] Eight states have high schools that sanction the non-contact alternative of flag football, [13] but none sanction tackle football for girls, [14] and a 2021 lawsuit in Utah that claimed the state violated Title IX laws by not sanctioning the sport was struck down. [15]

According to the New York Times , in 2006, 70% of high school football players were white and 20% were black. By 2018, those figures were 30% white and 40% black. [16] As of 2016, black youth are nearly three times more likely than white youth to play tackle football. [17]

In the 2010s, participation in high school football decreased in most states across the United States. Wisconsin saw the largest decrease, dropping by nearly a quarter from 2009 to 2019; only seven states saw an increased number of players. [18]

Safety and brain health concerns

Robert Cantu, a Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery and Co-Founder of the CTE Center at the Boston University School of Medicine, believes that children under 14 should not play tackle football. [19] Their brains are not fully developed, and myelin (nerve cell insulation) is at greater risk in shear when the brain is young. Myelination is completed at about 15 years of age. Children also have larger heads relative to their body size and weaker necks. [20] [21]

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by repeated brain trauma, such as concussions and blows to the head that do not produce concussions. It has been found in football players who had played for only a few years, including some who only played at the high school level. [22] [23]

An NFL-funded study reported that high school football players suffered 11.2 concussions per 10,000 games or practices, nearly twice as many as college football players. [24]

According to 2017 study on brains of deceased gridiron football players, 99% of tested brains of NFL players, 88% of CFL players, 64% of semi-professional players, 91% of college football players, and 21% of high school football players had various stages of CTE. [25]

Other common injuries include injuries of legs, arms, and lower back. [26] [27] [28] [29]

The largest stadiums by capacity

Below are the largest high school American football stadiums by capacity. Stadiums with a capacity of at least 10,000 are included. [30] [31] [32]

Wailuku, Hawaii War Memorial Stadium 23,000
Canton, Ohio Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium 22,400
Baton Rouge, Louisiana BREC Memorial Stadium 21,395
Canyon, Texas Happy State Bank Stadium 20,000
Mesquite, Texas Mesquite Memorial Stadium 20,000
San Antonio, Texas Alamo Stadium 18,500
Allen, Texas Eagle Stadium 18,000
Odessa, Texas Ratliff Stadium 17,931
Massillon, Ohio Paul Brown Tiger Stadium 16,392
Clarkston, Georgia James R. Hallford Stadium 15,600
Roebuck, South Carolina Cavalier Stadium 15,200
Cedar Rapids, Iowa Kingston Stadium 15,000
Tacoma, Washington Stadium Bowl 15,000
Little Rock, Arkansas Quigley Stadium 15,000
Hobbs, New Mexico Watson Memorial Stadium 15,000
Allentown, Pennsylvania J. Birney Crum Stadium 15,000
Cumberland, Maryland Greenway Avenue Stadium 15,000
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Bethlehem Area School District Stadium 14,000
Meridian, Mississippi Ray Stadium 14,000
McAllen, Texas McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium 13,500
Carrollton, Texas Tommy Standridge Stadium 13,000
Pueblo, Colorado Dutch Clark Stadium 12,500
Irving, Texas Joy and Ralph Ellis Stadium 12,500
Bedford, Texas Pennington Field 12,500
San Benito, Texas Bobby Morrow Stadium 12,000
Austin, Texas Burger Stadium 12,000
Bridgeport, Connecticut John F. Kennedy Stadium 12,000
Denton, Texas CH Collins Stadium 12,000
Houston, Texas Jones-Cowart Stadium 12,000
Pasadena, Texas Veterans Memorial Stadium 12,000
Louisville, Kentucky Manual Stadium 11,500
Cypress, Texas Cy-Fair FCU Stadium 11,000
Austin, Texas Kelly Reeves Stadium 11,000
Evansville, Indiana Reitz Bowl 11,000
Commerce, Texas Memorial Stadium 11,000
San Antonio, Texas Dub Farris Stadium 10,000
Dallas, Texas Forester Stadium 10,000
San Antonio, Texas Jerry Comalander Stadium 10,000
Harlingen, Texas J. Lewis Boggus Stadium 10,000
Miami, Florida Nathaniel "Traz" Powell Stadium 10,000
Bluefield, West Virginia Mitchell Stadium 10,000
Brownsville, Texas Sams Memorial Stadium 10,000
Corsicana, Texas Tiger Stadium 10,000
New Braunfels, Texas Unicorn Stadium 10,000
Sioux Falls, South Dakota Howard Wood Field 10,000
Tulsa, Oklahoma Union-Tuttle Stadium 10,000
Waller, Texas Waller ISD Stadium 10,000
Melissa, Texas Coach Kenny Deel Stadium 10,000
Greensboro, North Carolina Jamieson Stadium 10,000

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">College football</span> Collegiate rules version of American/Canadian football, played by colleges and universities

College football is gridiron football that is played by teams of amateur student-athletes at universities and colleges. It was through collegiate competition that gridiron football first gained popularity in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free kick</span> Action in several codes of football

A free kick is an action used in several codes of football to restart play with the kicking of a ball into the field of play.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gridiron football</span> Team sport primarily played in North America

Gridiron football, also known as North American football, or in North America as simply football, is a family of football team sports primarily played in the United States and Canada. American football, which uses 11 players, is the form played in the United States and the best known form of gridiron football worldwide, while Canadian football, which uses 12 players, predominates in Canada. Other derivative varieties include arena football, flag football and amateur games such as touch and street football. Football is played at professional, collegiate, high school, semi-professional, and amateur levels.

Overtime or extra time is an additional period of play specified under the rules of a sport to bring a game to a decision and avoid declaring the match a tie or draw where the scores are the same. In some sports, this extra period is played only if the game is required to have a clear winner, as in single-elimination tournaments where only one team or players can advance to the next round or win the tournament and replays are not allowed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fair catch</span> American football rule

A fair catch is a feature of American football and several other codes of football, in which a player attempting to catch a ball kicked by the opposing team – either on a kickoff or punt – is entitled to catch the ball without interference from any member of the kicking team. A player, usually a return specialist, wishing to make a fair catch signals his intent by extending one arm above his head and waving it while the kicked ball is in flight. A ball caught in this manner becomes dead once caught, i.e., the player catching the ball is not entitled to advance the ball, and the receiving team begins its drive at the spot where the ball was caught.

In American football, a touchback is a ruling that is made and signaled by an official when the ball becomes dead on or behind a team's own goal line and the opposing team gave the ball the momentum, or impetus, to travel over or across the goal line but did not have possession of the ball when it became dead. Since the 2018 season, touchbacks have also been awarded in college football on kickoffs that end in a fair catch by the receiving team between its own 25-yard line and goal line. In the 2023 season, the NFL adopted the same rules as college football in regards to awarding touchbacks on kickoffs that end in a fair catch. In 2024, the NFL moved the placement of the ball after a touchback on a kickoff to the receiving team's 30-yard line; this was part of a radical change to the league's kickoff procedure. Such impetus may be imparted by a kick, pass, fumble, or in certain instances by batting the ball. A touchback is not a play, but a result of events that may occur during a play. A touchback is the opposite of a safety with regard to impetus since a safety is scored when the ball becomes dead in a team's end zone after that team — the team whose end zone it is — caused the ball to cross the goal line.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comparison of American and Canadian football</span> Differences between the two most common types of gridiron football

American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar; both have their origins partly in rugby football, but some key differences exist between the two codes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American football rules</span>

Gameplay in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is or is not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.

In gridiron football, clock management is an aspect of game strategy that focuses on the game clock and/or play clock to achieve a desired result, typically near the end of a match. Depending on the game situation, clock management may entail playing in a manner that either slows or quickens the time elapsed from the game clock, to either extend the match or hasten its end. When the desired outcome is to end the match quicker, it is analogous to "running out the clock" seen in many sports. Clock management strategies are a significant part of American football, where an elaborate set of rules dictates when the game clock stops between downs, and when it continues to run.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kickoff (gridiron football)</span> Method of starting a drive in gridiron football

A kickoff is a method of starting a drive in gridiron football. Additionally, it may refer to a kickoff time, the scheduled time of the first kickoff of a game. Typically, a kickoff consists of one team – the "kicking team" – kicking the ball to the opposing team – the "receiving team". The receiving team is then entitled to return the ball, i.e., attempt to advance it towards the kicking team's end zone, until the player with the ball is tackled by the kicking team, goes out of bounds, scores a touchdown, or the play is otherwise ruled dead. Kickoffs take place at the start of each half of play, the beginning of overtime in some overtime formats, and after scoring plays.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Safety (gridiron football score)</span> Scoring play in gridiron football

In gridiron football, the safety or safety touch is a scoring play that results in two points being awarded to the scoring team. Safeties can be scored in a number of ways, such as when a ball carrier is tackled in his own end zone or when a foul is committed by the offense in its own end zone. After a safety is scored in American football, the ball is kicked off to the team that scored the safety from the 20-yard line; in Canadian football, the scoring team also has the options of taking control of the ball at its own 35-yard line or kicking off the ball, also at its own 35-yard line. The ability of the scoring team to receive the ball through a kickoff differs from the touchdown and field goal, which require the scoring team to kick the ball off to the scored-upon team. Despite being of relatively low point value, safeties can have a significant impact on the result of games, and Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats estimated that safeties have a greater abstract value than field goals, despite being worth a point less, due to the field position and reclaimed possession gained off the safety kick.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comparison of American football and rugby union</span>

A comparison of American football and rugby union is possible because of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Field goal</span> Means of scoring in gridiron football

A field goal (FG) is a means of scoring in gridiron football. To score a field goal, the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. The entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal, which is the area above the crossbar and between the uprights or, if above the uprights, between their outside edges. American football requires that a field goal must only come during a play from scrimmage while Canadian football retains open field kicks and thus field goals may be scored at any time from anywhere on the field and by any player. The vast majority of field goals, in both codes, are placekicked. Drop-kicked field goals were common in the early days of gridiron football but are almost never attempted in modern times. A field goal may also be scored through a fair catch kick, but this is also extremely rare. In most leagues, a successful field goal awards three points.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American football</span> Team field sport

American football, also known as gridiron football, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, the team with possession of the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with the ball or throwing it, while the defense, the team without possession of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and to take control of the ball for themselves. The offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs or plays; if they fail, they turn over the football to the defense, but if they succeed, they are given a new set of four downs to continue the drive. A game is won by the team with the higher number of points, which are scored primarily by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Penalty (gridiron football)</span> Penalty in American football

In gridiron football, a penalty is a sanction assessed against a team for a violation of the rules, called a foul. Officials initially signal penalties by tossing a bright yellow colored penalty flag onto the field toward or at the spot of a foul.

In gridiron football, replay review is a method of reviewing a play using cameras at various angles to determine the accuracy of the initial call of the officials. An instant replay can take place in the event of a close or otherwise controversial call, either at the request of a team's head coach or the officials themselves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Two-point conversion</span> Play in American and Canadian football

In gridiron football, a two-point conversion or two-point convert is a play a team attempts instead of kicking a one-point conversion immediately after it scores a touchdown. In a two-point conversion attempt, the team that just scored must run a play from scrimmage close to the opponent's goal line and advance the ball across the goal line in the same manner as if they were scoring a touchdown. If the team succeeds, it earns two additional points in addition to the six points for the touchdown, for a total of eight points. If the team fails, no additional points are scored.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conversion (gridiron football)</span> Football scoring play

The conversion, try, also known as a point(s) after touchdown, PAT, extra point, two-point conversion, or convert is a gridiron football play that occurs immediately after a touchdown. The scoring team attempts to score one extra point by kicking the ball through the uprights in the manner of a field goal, or two points by passing or running the ball into the end zone in the manner of a touchdown.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helmet-to-helmet collision</span> Dangerous contact in gridiron football

Helmet-to-helmet collisions are occurrences in gridiron football when two players' football helmets make head-to-head contact with a high degree of force. Intentionally causing a helmet-to-helmet collision is a penalty in most football leagues, including many high school leagues.


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