How Long Are High School Football Games? (Explained) 


High school football games are more important than most people realize.

They’re a time when college recruiters take a look at prospective players.

One of the things recruiters look for is a player’s ability to last through the game at peak performance.

Whether you’re in the crowd or a parent of a player, you may wonder how long a high school football game actually lasts.

Here’s what you need to know about high school football games.

How Long Are High School Football Games?

On average, High school football games tend to last from 2 to 2.5 hours.

Each quarter runs for about 12 minutes before the quarter ends.

There’s also a halftime show between the second and third quarters.

The halftime show can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the high school and show in question.

For example, high schools that use marching bands to perform at the high school tend to run a bit longer during a show.

That’s because the high school band may be competitive and have a show that they take to competitions.

They play at high school football games to practice and show off their skills.

The duration of their show might be a good 15 or 20 minutes long.

Some may run even longer.

As such, a high school football game may sometimes run a bit longer than normal.

High school football games aren’t as long as college or NFL games because they don’t have as many breaks.

There aren’t any commercials running which require the teams to take a TV break.

The quarters are also shorter than they are in the NFL because high school students aren’t professional players yet.

If you plan on watching a high school game, then you should prepare to sit in the stands for at least two hours.

Do High School Football Games Use A Mercy Rule?

Some high school football teams do have a mercy rule.

A mercy rule is when one team is many points ahead of another team.

The gap between them is so high that it would be virtually impossible for the other team to catch up in the time left in the game.

The officials might choose to activate the mercy rule to spare their players any more embarrassment or exhaustion.

A mercy rule can occur in two ways.

The first, and the most popular, way is that the game immediately ends.

This can cut down a high school football game by a lot if the team had an outstanding first half of the game.

The second thing that might happen is the team might choose to let the clock run.

Normally, the game clock stops whenever a play finishes.

It starts again once the team lines up and the play resumes.

Using a mercy rule might make the game clock continue running no matter what.

In this case, the game ends a lot faster since it isn’t continuously stopping.

This can also make a high school football game a lot shorter.

Mercy rules can reduce the amount of time it takes to play high school football.

Why Are High School Football Games So Short?

If you’re used to watching NFL games and college games, then a high school game may seem quite short.

Here are a few reasons high school football games are shorter than NFL and college games.

1. Less Formal

One of the reasons high school football games aren’t as long as NFL games is that they’re less formal.

In the NFL and college, players and teams take themselves more seriously.

That’s because there’s a lot on the line.

Coaches and staff have to show that they put all the money that the university invested in them to good use.

For players, it’s a chance to prove to NFL teams and coaches that they’re a player to consider.

College football, in particular, is a launching pad for players.

Their games are also their first taste of what it’s like to play in the NFL.

You can almost think of college football as an internship.

Players do their best to hone their skills and prove their worth to land the big job after graduation.

With high school football, there isn’t that sort of rigidity.

While some players may take the game seriously, others just play it as a hobby.

While some coaches may take it seriously in the hopes of one day becoming a college or NFL coach, others just coach because no one else would or because they enjoy the game.

High school football is a lot less formal than NFL and college football.

This means it doesn’t have to be quite as long.

2. No Commercials

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons high school football games are short is the lack of commercials.

When you watch an NFL or college game, you can expect commercial breaks.

That’s because college teams and NFL teams get sponsorships.

Broadcasters make a lot of money through ads by showing games.

To ensure they get the most money, they cram as many ads as they can into a game.

This means that the game has to take commercial breaks for the broadcast network to show those ads.

Sometimes the broadcaster can do this during a timeout or when the game clock stops, but in some cases, they have to stop the game itself to show ads.

That isn’t the case in high school.

Most high school games aren’t broadcast on TV.

Those that are don’t stop for ad breaks.

Because there isn’t anything interrupting the game aside from the usual timeouts, the game can run without stopping.

With fewer stops, the game ends up becoming more efficient which means it’s able to play its 12-minute quarters without stopping.

As a result, the game only lasts two to two and a half hours.

3. Halftime Shows

In most cases, high school football games are shorter because they have shorter halftime shows.

Since high school football isn’t as formal as the NFL or college football, they’re not as fussy when it comes to halftime show lengths.

Sometimes, this might mean the band or other entertainers will play a long show.

Usually, it means the halftime show is short.

This is different from college football and the NFL because they have a set amount of time for the halftime show.

The show can only last about 13 minutes for the NFL.

The only exception is the Super Bowl Halftime Show which tends to last 30 minutes.

Because high school football is a bit more laid back, they don’t much care if the show doesn’t last the full 13 minutes or if it goes over it.

High school football games are shorter because their halftime shows aren’t always 13 minutes long.

4. Player Health

A final reason high school games are shorter is player health.

High school players are kids.

They’re growing and building their athleticism.

They’re not professional players yet.

As such, they can’t play for the same amount of time that professional players can.

Professional players have had years to build up their strength and endurance.

High school players are still growing, let alone building their strength and endurance.

Pushing them for too long can have consequences on their bodies which can impact how well they play down the line.

For example, if a high school student pushes himself too hard, then he might get a serious injury.

That injury might impact his performance when he goes on to play in college and the NFL.

It may prevent him from joining the team of his dreams because the staff is aware of how his injury can impact his performance.

If the student hadn’t gone through as much pushing, then he wouldn’t have endured the injury and been able to play at his best in the future.

High school football games are shorter because their players are still kids.

Does A High School Football Game Last Longer Than An NFL Game?

No, a high school football game does not last longer than an NFL game.

A high school football game tends to last for two hours.

An NFL game tends to last more than three hours.


High school football games last for around two hours but certain factors can make the game last longer or end quickly.

There are also several reasons why high school games aren’t as long as NFL or college games.

While NFL and college games already last for a long time, some factors can make the games last even longer.


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