Play clock change leads to increase in ball boys

Given the speed at which the Columbus North offense operates, the change from a 25-second play clock to a 40-second play clock isn’t going to make a difference this high school football season.

Instead of offenses getting 25 seconds to snap the ball after the official has spotted the ball, they will now have 40 seconds once the previous play has been completed. The college and pro games already operate under that practice.

“I’m open-minded about it,” North coach Tim Bless said. “I don’t know that there was anything wrong with our 25-second model. I guess it just puts us in line with the next level a little bit more. With us being an on-the-ball tempo offense, it’s not going to affect us much, but on the other side of the ball, it may affect our opponents.”

As executive director of the Indiana Football Coaches Association, Columbus East coach Bob Gaddis worked alongside the IHSAA in implementing the 40-second clock as a pilot program for the National Federation of High Schools. If it is successful in Indiana, the NFHS likely will adopt it nationwide.

Gaddis and his team will have a chance to play under the new 40-second clock Friday when it scrimmages at Martinsville.

“It will be different,” Gaddis said. “Instead of everybody waiting for the official to set the ball, the clock will start when the play ends.”

To help facilitate the change, all teams now are required to have three ball boys on their sideline to throw in footballs to the officials when needed. Two of those three will be responsible for their team, while the third will be responsible for the other team when it is on offense.

That means there will be six ball boys at each game — three on each side.

“It’s going to be a learning curve,” Gaddis said. “The issue is, you have to depend on the other school to make sure they have three.”

Monday morning, Gaddis sent out an email and a tweet asking for volunteers in grades 5 to 8 to become ball boys for the Olympians this season. By noon, he had a half-dozen responses.

Gaddis is still accepting volunteers.

“I just made the decision this weekend I wanted to use younger kids instead of high school kids,” Gaddis said. “With the nature of the game right now, you want to do everything you can to get them a positive experience with football.”

North already has an experienced cast of ball boys. One is Bless’ son Luke.

Now an eighth-grader, Luke Bless has been a ball boy for the Bull Dogs since he was in second grade.

“We have a veteran crew of ball boys right now, so you can’t get much by them,” Bless said. “The officiating crew is going to be in a hurry to spot the ball. Before, there was no real emphasis to get the ball down.”

Because five officials are needed to administer a game with a 40-second clock, and only four are usually put in place for junior varsity and freshman games, the 25-second clock still will be used at those games. At the varsity level, one official will be assigned to get the footballs in after each play.

East will have an assistant coach is in charge of its ball boys. In the past, managers have acted as ball boys, but that will no longer be the case.

“They only had to worry about it when we had the ball,” Gaddis said. “If they had other duties, they would attend to it when the other team had the ball. Now, at least one has to be ready when the other team has the ball.”

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Friday’s scrimmage schedule:

Columbus East at Martinsville, 7 p.m.

Greenwood at Columbus North, 7 p.m.

Jennings County at Brownstown Central, 7 p.m.

Eastern Greene at Brown County, 7 p.m.

Covenant Christian at Edinburgh, 7 p.m.