Southern Section Implements Football Mercy Rule

Starting next season, a running clock will be used in the fourth quarter of one-sided games.

A football mercy rule will go into effect next season in the California Interscholastic Federation's Southern Section, per a recent vote by the CIF's state council.

The rule will apply to all high school nonleague, league and playoff games, including section championship games. If one team has a lead of 35 points or more at the end of three quarters, a running clock will be used from the start of the fourth quarter until the end of the game. If the point differential grows to 35 or more at any time in the fourth quarter, a running clock will be used for the remainder of the game.

If both coaches mutually agree to invoke a running clock prior to the start of the fourth quarter, they may do so with the referee's permission. Once the running clock is in effect in the fourth quarter, it shall remain in effect for the rest of the game, even if the losing team scores to make the deficit less than 35 points.

The running clock will be administered as follows: 

1. The game clock will start with the snap or legal touch of a free kick on the first play following the establishment of the pertinent point differential, and continue to run uninterrupted when:

• A first down is awarded to either team, including after a change of possession.
• The ball or runner is out of bounds.
• A legal or illegal forward pass is incomplete.
• A play results in a touchback.
• An inadvertent whistle occurs.
• During all penalty enforcements.

2. The game clock shall be stopped for:

• any score (a touchdown, a point-after try; a field goal or a safety)
• the free kick following a fair catch or awarded fair catch
• a charged team timeout.
• a coach-referee conference
• an official’s time-out (injury; equipment; first down measurement, etc.)

3. Following a stoppage for any reason, the game clock will start again when:

• The ball is next marked ready for play.  
• The ball is legally touched on the free kick following a score, a fair catch or awarded fair catch.

Click here to read more details about the new mercy rule. 


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