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High school football, referring to the American code in the United Statesmarker and the Canadian code in Canadamarker, is one of the most popular interscholastic sports at high schools in both countries. The game's popularity with both spectators and students is widespread across both nations.

High school football, also known as prep football or preps football, dates back to the late 19th century, concurrent with the start of many college football programs. In the late 19th and early 20th century, many college and high school teams played against one another. Many other traditions of high school football such as pep rallies, marching bands, mascots, and homecoming games are mirrored in college football.

Rules

A High school football game in Texas.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) establishes the rules of High School Football.

Two states, Texasmarker and Massachusettsmarker, use NCAA playing rules except as shown below.

With their common ancestry, the NFHS rules of high school football are largely similar to the college game, though with some important differences:
  • The four quarters are each 12 minutes in length, as opposed to 15 minutes in all other forms of the game. (Texas uses the NFHS 12-minute quarter; Massachusetts uses the NCAA 15-minute quarter.)
  • Kickoffs take place at the kicking team's 40 yd line, as opposed to the 30 in the college and the NFL ranks. (Both Texas and Massachusetts have adopted the NFHS rule.)
  • If a ball crosses the plane of the goal line on a missed field goal, it would be a touchback and the opposing team will start at the 20 yd line.
  • Any kick crossing the goal line is automatically a touchback; kicks cannot be returned out of the end zone.
  • Pass interference by the defense results in a 15-yard penalty (and automatic first down), regardless of where the foul occurred (unlike the pro ranks where the ball is placed at the spot of the foul).
  • The defense cannot return an extra-point attempt for a score.
  • The use of overtime, and the type of overtime used, is up to the individual state association.


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 were adopted by the NCAA.

Sanctioning organizations

Each state has at least one sanctioning organization for public school. In many states a separate organization governs interscholastic athletics at most private schools. Each sanctioning body divides its member schools up into anywhere from two to eight size classifications based on enrollment and then each classification is further divided into geographic regions. The size classifications are arranged from 'A'/'1A' (the smallest) to 'AAAAAAAA'/'8A' (the largest), though the nomenclature and number of size divisions vary from state to state. A school's size classification can change if its enrollment rises or declines over the years. At the smallest schools, particularly in rural communities or smaller private schools, variations on the game using six, eight, or nine players per side instead of the traditional eleven (or twelve in Canada) are encountered.

Home schooling and high school football

Homeschooled students may also participate in high school football through independent or freelance teams that compete against small private (or in a few cases, public) schools. In some states, such as Floridamarker, state law allows homeschooled students to compete in interscholastic athletics for their local school district. Thus, homeschooled Tim Tebow, who was one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, was able to play for the nationally-ranked public Nease High School. Tebow won college football's most coveted individual award, the Heisman Trophy, in 2007 as quarterback for the University of Florida. The legislature in the state of Alabamamarker, where Tebow played in a nationally-televised loss against Hoover High School, is considering a bill, dubbed the Tim Tebow Bill that would grant similar rights to Alabama's home schooled students.

The high school football season

Training for the upcoming season usually starts with weightlifting and other conditioning activities, such as specialized speed and agility training. In some states, this begins a few weeks after the end of the previous season, and in others as late as August. Some states allow seven on seven scrimmages, while others prohibit formal practices during most of the summer. Near the end of the summer in mid-August, double sessions tend to begin and usually last for one week or until school starts. After double sessions end, regular season practices begin with daily sessions each week day afternoon except on game day. Practices are often held on Saturday as well, but almost never on Sunday.

The regular season typically consists of ten games in most states. The first game of the season is usually in early September and the final regular season game is usually in mid-November. Teams may have one or more bye weeks during the regular season. Larger schools (especially those with successful programs) can often draw attendances in the thousands, even for regular season games, and in some cases may play the game at a college or professional stadium to accommodate the expected large crowds.

The vast majority of high school football games are scheduled for Friday nights, with Thursday evenings and Saturdays being less heavily used. Alternate days are most common in larger school districts where the facilities are used by multiple schools, or where the playing field is not illuminated for nighttime use.

Playoffs and post-season

Prior to the 1970s, many states crowned state champions through polls, but playoff systems have become nearly universal since then and most states have steadily increased the number of teams eligible to participate and total number of classifications. Though the playoff scheme and number of teams eligible varies, regional champions will compete in elimination playoff rounds — in a tradition borrowed from pro football rather than college — to determine a state champion for each size classification. The championship games are usually held at a neutral site, usually a college or NFL stadium needed to accommodate the larger crowds. College and professional fields are also usually better equipped to handle inclement weather which is common since state championship games are typically held in late November to the middle of December. Only two states do not have one state champion (New Jerseymarker and Massachusettsmarker) and only crown regional state champions. In many large cities, including Pittsburghmarker, Virginia Beach, Buffalo, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, public high schools compete in their own "city leagues" and may or may not ever play opponents outside of them. At the other extreme are states such as Illinoismarker or West Virginiamarker, in which regional championships do not exist; the state's playoffs are seeded on a statewide basis.

Some publications and internet sites release nationwide rankings based on polls or mathematical formulas which take into account various factors like average margin of victory and strength of schedule. Schools that finish atop these rankings, particularly the USA Today poll, are sometimes considered to be the national champions.

College recruiting

In all states, the HS football season will have ended by late December, but the recruiting process by which colleges offer scholarships to high school seniors often starts in the summer, before the school year and football season begin. Physical assessment is an increasingly important part of the recruiting process. Football camps are held at college campuses where a large number of potential recruits can be evaluated simultaneously in various speed and skills drills. Players are evaluated based on running the 40-yard dash, agility shuttle, vertical jump and the number of repetitions on the bench press that they can perform at a given weight. Recently, the SPARQ rating has become a popular composite metric to evaluate overall athleticism. Based on performance over the course of their careers and at camps, colleges will typically take potential recruits on tours of the campus and athletic facilities, or the college may have its team's coach visit the recruit at home or at school.

While all colleges do much of their recruiting from local and in-state high schools, where they can network with HS coaches and booster clubs, the nation's top college programs can easily recruit athletes from around the country. Some colleges have historically been aided in this regard through their prominence within their religious affiliation, such as Notre Dame or BYU.

Students who played for larger high schools, or who competed in nationally-televised matches, have a natural advantage towards recruitment, while players who competed at smaller schools - such as most states' 1A and 2A categories - will have their skills and achievements judged versus the lower-caliber opposition they faced and, as such, are rarely considered as top prospects. Occasionally, though, a student at a smaller school will receive a full scholarship – for example, Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Leonard Davis received a scholarship to the University of Texasmarker despite playing football in Wortham, Texasmarker, a class 1A school.

Though it is an expensive project, HS football players often increase their visibility by sending out video highlights of their playing skills to college recruiters. If a student receives no scholarship offers, they may still attempt to make a college team by becoming a "walk on" and paying their own tuition in the hopes that they can make the team and possibly receive a scholarship. Others will try out for a non-scholarship team, such as a Division III school, or a two-year junior college team. The latter option is also popular with students with academic or behavioral issues that would prevent them from playing at a four-year college.

While the vast majority of HS football players will not even be considered for a scholarship offer, players who receive nationwide attention will invariably receive scholarship offers from more than one school and will often hold a press conference to announce their final selection. "All Star" exhibition games like the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is televised nationally by NBC, give the nation's top prospects the opportunity to publicly announce their college selection or to provide one last opportunity to showcase their talents to college recruiters. By National Signing Day, the first Wednesday in February, most top recruits will have already signed non-binding letters of intent or verbally committed with colleges.

High school football phenoms

High school football has produced a number of athletes that draw national media attention while still in high school. Some have continued on to success in college and/or the NFL.
  • Cedric Benson – led his Midland Lee squads to three consecutive Texas 5A state championships (scoring 15 touchdowns in those title games); first high school athlete to appear on the cover of Dave Campbell's Texas Football.
  • Brian Brohm - led his Trinitymarker Shamrocks to three straight Kentucky 4A state championships; he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated during his junior season of high school.
  • Jimmy Clausen – never lost a football game he started in his prep career; announced his college decision at College Football Hall of Famemarker after arriving in a stretch Hummer limousine.
  • Tim Couch – set a number of national high school records, including passing yardage (12,104), while at Leslie County High School (Hyden, Kentuckymarker).
  • Ronald Curry – record breaking quarterback whose Hampton High School teams in 1996 and 1997 are widely considered the best in Virginia history, but his star was eclipsed in college by district rival Michael Vick.
  • Ken Hall – nicknamed "The Sugar Landmarker Express" while rushing a total over his career (1951-1953), a national record that still stands after more than 50 years.
  • Mike Hart – rushed for a national record 204 touchdowns over his career at Onondaga Central High School.
  • Todd Marinovich – was famously subjected to a strict diet and training regimen from early childhood by his father to prepare him for football stardom but later drug usage undermined his college and NFL careers.
  • Ben Mauk - set national single season records for yards (6,540) as well as national career records for completions (1,105), attempts (1,931), and yards (17,534); furthermore, he holds the second highest national career touchdown mark (179), all earned while winning two OHSAA titles at Kenton High School. After three seasons at Wake Forest, ending with a catastrophic injury to his throwing arm in 2006, he recovered to start for the University of Cincinnati in his final season in 2007.
  • Ron Powlus – college football analyst Beano Cook predicted he would win two Heisman Trophies in college.
  • Austin Scott - set the Pennsylvania High School season rushing record (3,853 yards) and had 53 touchdowns in 2002.
  • Emmitt Smith – broke Hall's record for most career games with 45.
  • James Mungro - Set the Pennsylvania High School career total rushing yards in 1995
  • Charles Woodson - Fumbled 5 times in opening game his senior year and bounced back to gain over 2,000 yards and 38 touchdowns to win the Ohio's Mr. Football in 1994 while playing for Fremont Ross High School. Later became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy.
  • Mike Doss - Led Canton McKinley to back-to-back state titles in 1997-1998, and a national title in 1997. As a senior he ran for 1,454 yards, 22 touchdowns, including 143 yards., and four touchdowns in the title game. He also had 111 tackles and three interceptions.
  • Noel Devine - attended North Fort Myers High School where he became the #3 ranked running back in the nation. He also notable on YouTube with his highlight runs during his high school career. In 2006, he became the leading rusher in Lee County passing Earnest Graham.


High School football mascots

As with college and professional football teams, every high school team in every state has a mascot or team name. Many are generic allusions conveying an image sense of strength, speed, and/or bravery. Thus, pluralized team names such as Tigers, Eagles, Wildcats, Trojans, and Warriors are fairly common throughout the country. Other team names, however, have a historical connection to the town or area where the high school or school district is located, such as a locally-important industry. For example, Tarpon Springs High School of Tarpon Springs, Florida has a Sponger for a mascot, as Tarpon Springs is know for their world leading sponging industry. Many new schools, or schools that had merged with other schools, have allowed their students to "vote" on a new school mascot or team nickname.



High school football in the media

As most games take place during primetime, television exposure of HS football on a local basis tends to be limited to championship games only. Local public access cable television and local radio stations often air regular season contests, and in some cases, the school's own radio station broadcasts the game using student announcers.

There has also been a massive increase in recent years of web based stations covering high school sporting events. Examples include HSSP Radio in Indiana who webcasts via sportsjuice.com, MSA Sports Network in Western Pennsylvania, or MSBN in Minnesota and BSports.org in Washington, both of whom webcast on the Meridix Webcast Network. In many television markets, local stations will air 30 or 60-minute "scoreboard" shows following their late Friday newscast with scores and highlights from games in their coverage area. Starting in 2005, the ESPN family of networks have also aired regular season matchups between nationally ranked teams.

Despite this increased national media attention, some states restrict the broadcast of high school games. One example is the University Interscholastic League, which governs public school sports in Texas. The UIL has a long-standing ban on television broadcasting of high school football games on Friday nights, believing that doing so could hurt ticket sales (radio broadcasts are allowed, though). Because of this, several games that have been broadcast on ESPN and Fox Sports Net in recent years have had to be played on either Thursday night or on Saturday to avoid the UIL's ban. In Michigan, live television broadcasts of regular season games are prohibited by the state athletic association.

Portrayals of high school football in movies, television, and literature

Hollywoodmarker portrayals of HS football, whether comedies or dramas, often portray the game at the center of a small town's existence and the focus of its attention.Also see Jock





See also



References

  • ESPN College Football Encyclopedia by Michael McCambridge - lists all-time records for all current Division I and Ivy League colleges, including games played against high school teams ISBN 1401337031


External links



Scores and results

Nationwide



State and regional

Virginia High School Football Ratings, Rankings, Game Predictions & Game Simulater.It is not sponsored by the VHSL.


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