Tick. Tick. Tick.

You’ve been there. You’ll be there again. A football game where the outcome is determined as soon as the opening kickoff sails off the tee. An early one touchdown lead divides and multiples quickly, and now it’s halftime and the score is 40-0. You think, “We have another half of this stuff.”

You just want the clock to run. Everybody just wants the clock to run.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

This season, in Maine high school football, the clock will run. By rule, the second half of blowouts will essentially be played in real time.

It’s called the Adjusted Timing Rule, and it’s outlined in the Maine Principals’ Association football bulletin for the 2015 season.

“If the score differential is 35 points or more in the second half of any game, at any level, the clock goes to running time,” is how the rule is written. The clock will stop for charged time outs, injuries, penalties and scores. If the losing team cuts its deficit to under 35 points, timing will go back to the standard rules.

As a sports writer who has seen too many blowouts and spends Friday nights working on a tight deadline, I love this rule. It will give me a few extra minutes to work, and even five or 10 minutes can make a big difference to a writer on deadline. Fans looking to get home on a Friday night, or those who just want the bludgeoning to end, will like the rule because it will be like fast-forwarding through the boring parts.

Football coaches, on the other hand, are less enthusiastic about the adjusted timing rule.

I took an informal poll of five head coaches from around the state. They coach in three of the state’s four divisions, Classes A, B, and D. The coaches I spoke to via email or direct message understand the reasoning behind the rule change, but have concerns, too.

“We’ve been on both sides of blowouts during my tenure at Cony, and I think coaches have managed it very well,” B.L. Lippert, who takes over as head coach at Cony this season after years as an assistant coach with the Rams, said. “I understand the game really isn’t in doubt anymore, but the new rule does take away a coach’s ability to get some playing time on Friday nights for players who might not normally get the chance. On the surface, I don’t love the change, but I do understand it.”

Bonny Eagle head coach Kevin Cooper is in favor of the rule. Cooper thinks it’s an oversimplification to say play the game out with junior varsity players.

“If I am ahead, I don’t want to run up the score so I want to play my JV’s. (The) other team is embarrassed so they are still player their 1’s. Now I have my sophomores against seniors. Not a good situation for my kids,” Cooper said.

In the past, the coaches would meet with the officials at halftime and make a decision. Is the game out of reach? If so, do you want to play running time?

“(I) think it should be left up to coaches/AD’s at each individual game. We only get one game per week. Should be able to play all 48 (minues),” South Portland head coach Steve Stinson said. “I’ve been on both sides. Kind of a ‘walk of shame’ to have the clock run on you. But I see the MPA’s side, also.”

The team that’s probably been on both ends of a blowout the most in recent seasons is Maine Central Institute. In 2012, the Huskies took the field with a team full of young players, and often took a pounding. That season included a 72-0 loss to Foxcroft Academy. By 2014, those young players had grown into experienced juniors and seniors, and they were delivering the poundings.

On the way to last season’s Little Ten Conference championship, MCI won a few blowouts, including an 81-6 win at Ellsworth, a team that like the Huskies a few years ago, was young and learning on the job.

“Personally, I would never ask for it down 35 because I would want to give my kids the best chance to cut into the lead and compete, but I never have said ‘No’ if the other coach has asked to run the clock,” MCI head coach Tom Bertrand said. “The rule is good in that it takes it out of the coaches’ hands to have to make the decision whether or not to ask for the clock to run.”

Like Lippert, Bertrand said the rule will decrease the reps younger and less experienced players get in those situations. Does that mean coaches will start subbing in backups sooner? Will some teams adjust their game pan earlier, trying to slow themselves down in the first half before hitting the 35-point threshold, staving off the running time for just a little while?

We’ll see. With so many new and developing football programs in Maine playing against established strong teams, blowouts are going to happen. I could glance at the schedule and pick out a handful of games each week that could see this rule come into play.

The Adjusted Timing Rule is going to work up a sweat, but it is not going to prevent blowouts. What was a 60-0 game will be 50-0. When you’re on the ugly side of that kind of score, what’s the difference?

Tick. Tick. Tick. When Skowhegan head coach Matt Friedman offered his opinion, he likely spoke for coaches around the state.

“I don’t hate it. But I sure hope I’m not on the wrong end any time soon,” Friedman said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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