When Granville Central bolted to a 48-0 lead on Durham Kestrel Heights in the first quarter of a high school football game earlier this season, there was no provision to stop the action, although there was little doubt who would win.
The score was 64-0 at the half and 80-0 entering the fourth quarter. Central, mercifully, didn’t score again.
But there is little mercy built into the state’s high school football rules and that’s the way some coaches like it.
Baseball, softball (10-run differential after five innings in both sports) and soccer (nine-goal differential by halftime or after) have statewide rules in place to stop lopsided high school games, but football does not have a so-called mercy rule.
Today’s prolific offenses, which are producing unprecedented scoring totals, have made blowouts common. Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said recently that a four-touchdown lead is no longer safe because teams can score points so quickly.
State high school football coaches have the option under N.C. High School Athletic Association rules to use a continuously running clock – keeping the clock going on out of bounds plays, incomplete passes and possession changes – if they feel a game has gotten out of hand. There is no state rule that mandates a running clock or that a game be stopped in a blowout.
Enloe has had losses of 61-19 (to Garner, Sept. 20), 51-0 (to Sanderson, Oct. 25) and 56-13 (to Millbrook, Sept. 27), but football coach Mike Massey has no desire for a mercy rule.
“We just lost to Sanderson 51-0 and I would not have appreciated terminating the game early due to a mercy rule,” Massey said. “In fact, we were offered a running clock and I declined it because our team (players and coaches) needs to learn how to handle adversity and continue to fight even when winning may be out of reach.”
Holly Springs’ Will Orbin, who played under a mercy rule while in Georgia, believes the NCHSAA should consider a way to stop blowout games.
Riverside coach David Hackney supports a rule to shorten or speed up games.
“Many coaches already practice this when a game is out of hand,” Hackney said, “but if this is a state rule it saves them the embarrassment (of asking).”
Smithfield-Selma coach David Lawhon, whose club went 1-10, has asked that the clock be run in some lopsided games, but said he isn’t sure whether he’d want a rule to be written.
“I like having a gentleman’s agreement,” Lawhon said. “Most coaches have been on both sides of blowouts.”
Athens Drive coach Chris Martin can envision the rule being optional and being applied if the coaches agree before the game.
Leesville Road coach Chad Smothers said a 35-point margin could trigger a running clock, but the game would return to normal rules if the margin was reduced.
Many coaches say that stopping games would limit the opportunity for some players to ever play. Franklinton ran only four plays in the second half in a 59-8 win over Northwest Halifax.