High school football
An eight-man gun formation in a high school football game
CountryUnited States
Governing body
National team(s)
First played1870
National competitions

High school football (French: football au lycée), also known as prep football, is gridiron football played by high school teams in the United States and Canada. It ranks among the most popular interscholastic sports in both countries, but its popularity is declining, partly due to risk of injury, particularly concussions.[1] According to The Washington Post, between 2009 and 2019, participation in high school football declined by 9.1%.[2] It is the basic level or step of tackle football.


The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) establishes the rules of high school American football in the United States. In Canada, high school is governed by Football Canada and most schools use Canadian football rules adapted for the high school game except in British Columbia, which uses the NFHS rules.[3]

Since the 2019 high school season, Texas is the only state that does not base its football rules on the NFHS rule set, instead using NCAA rules with certain exceptions shown below.[4][5] Through the 2018 season, Massachusetts also based its rules on those of the NCAA,[6] but it adopted NFHS rules in 2019.[7]

With their common ancestry, the NFHS rules of high school American football are largely similar to the college game, though with some important differences:

At least one unique high school rule has been adopted by college football. In 1996, the overtime rules originally utilized by Kansas high school teams beginning in 1971 were adopted by the NCAA, although the NCAA has made five major modifications. Through the 2018 season, each possession started from the 25-yard line. Since 2021, this remains in force through the first two overtime procedures. In the second overtime, teams must attempt a two-point conversion after a touchdown. Secondly, triple overtime & thereafter are two-point conversion attempts instead of possessions from the 25-yard line, and successful attempts are scored as conversions instead of touchdowns.

Thirty-four states have a mercy rule that comes into play during one-sided games after a prescribed scoring margin is surpassed at halftime or any point thereafter. The type of mercy rule varies from state to state, with many using a "continuous clock" after the scoring margin is reached (wherein, except for specific situations, the clock keeps running on plays where the clock would normally stop). Other states end the game once the margin is reached or passed. For example, Texas uses a 45-point mercy rule (to stop the game) only in six-man football; for 11-man football there is no automatic stoppage but the coaches may mutually agree to use a continuous clock.


High school football in the United States is played almost entirely by boys. Over the past decade, girls have made up less than half a percent of the players of American high school football.[12] Eight states have high schools that sanction the non-contact alternative of flag football,[13] but none sanction tackle football for girls,[14] and a 2021 lawsuit in Utah that claimed the state violated Title IX laws by not sanctioning the sport was struck down.[15]

According to the New York Times, in 2006, 70% of high school football players were white and 20% were black. By 2018, those figures were 30% white and 40% black.[16] As of 2016, black youth are nearly three times more likely than white youth to play tackle football.[17]

In the 2010s, participation in high school football decreased in most states across the United States. Wisconsin saw the largest decrease, dropping by nearly a quarter from 2009 to 2019; only seven states saw an increased number of players.[18]

Safety and brain health concerns

See also: Health issues in American football and Concussions in American football

Robert Cantu, a Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery and Co-Founder of the CTE Center at the Boston University School of Medicine, believes that children under 14 should not play tackle football.[19] Their brains are not fully developed, and myelin (nerve cell insulation) is at greater risk in shear when the brain is young. Myelination is completed at about 15 years of age. Children also have larger heads relative to their body size and weaker necks.[20][21]

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by repeated brain trauma, such as concussions and blows to the head that do not produce concussions. It has been found in football players who had played for only a few years, including some who only played at the high school level.[22][23]

An NFL-funded study reported that high school football players suffered 11.2 concussions per 10,000 games or practices, nearly twice as many as college football players.[24]

According to 2017 study on brains of deceased gridiron football players, 99% of tested brains of NFL players, 88% of CFL players, 64% of semi-professional players, 91% of college football players, and 21% of high school football players had various stages of CTE.[25]

Other common injuries include injuries of legs, arms, and lower back.[26][27][28][29]

The largest stadiums by capacity

It has been suggested that this section should be split into a new article titled List of high school football stadiums by capacity. (discuss) (November 2023)

Below are the largest high school American football stadiums by capacity. Stadiums with a capacity of at least 10,000 are included.[30][31][32]

Location Stadium Capacity
New Orleans, Louisiana Tad Gormley Stadium 26,500
Wailuku, Hawaii War Memorial Stadium 23,000
Canton, Ohio Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium 22,400
Baton Rouge, Louisiana BREC Memorial Stadium 21,395
Canyon, Texas Happy State Bank Stadium 20,000
Mesquite, Texas Mesquite Memorial Stadium 20,000
San Antonio, Texas Alamo Stadium 18,500
Allen, Texas Eagle Stadium 18,000
Odessa, Texas Ratliff Stadium 17,931
Massillon, Ohio Paul Brown Tiger Stadium 16,392
Clarkston, Georgia James R. Hallford Stadium 15,600
Roebuck, South Carolina Cavalier Stadium 15,200
Cedar Rapids, Iowa Kingston Stadium 15,000
Tacoma, Washington Stadium Bowl 15,000
Little Rock, Arkansas Quigley Stadium 15,000
Hobbs, New Mexico Watson Memorial Stadium 15,000
Allentown, Pennsylvania J. Birney Crum Stadium 15,000
Cumberland, Maryland Greenway Avenue Stadium 15,000
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Bethlehem Area School District Stadium 14,000
Meridian, Mississippi Ray Stadium 14,000
McAllen, Texas McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium 13,500
Shreveport, Louisiana Lee Hedges Stadium 13,400
Carrollton, Texas Tommy Standridge Stadium 13,000
Pueblo, Colorado Dutch Clark Stadium 12,500
Irving, Texas Joy and Ralph Ellis Stadium 12,500
Bedford, Texas Pennington Field 12,500
San Benito, Texas Bobby Morrow Stadium 12,000
Austin, Texas Burger Stadium 12,000
Bridgeport, Connecticut John F. Kennedy Stadium 12,000
Denton, Texas CH Collins Stadium 12,000
Houston, Texas Jones-Cowart Stadium 12,000
Pasadena, Texas Veterans Memorial Stadium 12,000
Louisville, Kentucky Manual Stadium 11,500
West Monroe, Louisiana Don Shows Field at Rebel Stadium 11,200
Cypress, Texas Cy-Fair FCU Stadium 11,000
Austin, Texas Kelly Reeves Stadium 11,000
Evansville, Indiana Reitz Bowl 11,000
Commerce, Texas Memorial Stadium 11,000
San Antonio, Texas Dub Farris Stadium 10,000
Dallas, Texas Forester Stadium 10,000
San Antonio, Texas Jerry Comalander Stadium 10,000
Harlingen, Texas J. Lewis Boggus Stadium 10,000
Miami, Florida Nathaniel "Traz" Powell Stadium 10,000
Bluefield, West Virginia Mitchell Stadium 10,000
Brownsville, Texas Sams Memorial Stadium 10,000
Corsicana, Texas Tiger Stadium 10,000
New Braunfels, Texas Unicorn Stadium 10,000
Sioux Falls, South Dakota Howard Wood Field 10,000
Tulsa, Oklahoma Union-Tuttle Stadium 10,000
Waller, Texas Waller ISD Stadium 10,000
Melissa, Texas Coach Kenny Deel Stadium 10,000
Greensboro, North Carolina Jamieson Stadium 10,000

See also


  1. ^ "Concussions in High School Sports - Can Football be Saved? - Athletico". January 24, 2020.
  2. ^ Bogage, Jacob (3 October 2019). "D-III football players say choice to forfeit season after injuries was theirs, not college's". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-10-03. Nationally, high school football participation has declined 9.1 percent over the past 10 years.
  3. ^ "BCFOA Home". British Columbia Football Official's Association. Archived from the original on September 13, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2010.
  4. ^ "2018–19 Football Manual" (PDF). University Interscholastic League. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  5. ^ "Section 159 – Football Rules". TAPPS Constitution. Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  6. ^ "Rule 69.1" (PDF). Rules and Regulations Governing Athletics. Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 16, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2009.
  7. ^ "MIAA Aligns Rules with NFHS in Football, Volleyball & Baseball" (Press release). National Federation of State High School Associations. August 8, 2018. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  8. ^ "New Blocking, Kicking Rules Address Risk Minimization in High School Football" (Press release). National Federation of State High School Associations. April 24, 2018. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  9. ^ "Football Rules Changes - 2019". National Federation of State High School Associations. May 16, 2019. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "Revised Intentional Grounding, Chop Block Rules Headline 2022 High School Football Rules Changes" (Press release). National Federation of State High School Associations. February 17, 2022. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  11. ^ "Changes in Basic Spot for Penalty Enforcement Headline 2023 High School Football Rules Changes" (Press release). National Federation of State High School Associations. February 2, 2023. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  12. ^ "11-player football participation in U.S. high schools 2009-2022, by gender". Statista Research Department. September 2022. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  13. ^ Lindkvist, Kierstin (2022-03-06). "All-girls flag football league wraps up winter season, looks to expand". KVAL. CBS. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  14. ^ Bogage, Jacob (2019-05-02). "When Sam Gordon was 9, she beat boys at football. Now she wants a high school league for girls". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  15. ^ "Judge Rules Utah Schools Don't Need To Sanction Girls' Football". KSLTV.com. 2021-03-03. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  16. ^ Belson, Ken; Bui, Quoctrung; Drape, Joe; Taylor, Rumsey; Ward, Joe (2019-11-08). "Inside Football's Campaign to Save the Game". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  17. ^ "RACE AND SPORT" (PDF). Women's Sports Foundation. July 2016. Retrieved 2022-12-01.
  18. ^ Hess, Corri (2023-10-12). "Wisconsin saw the nation's steepest decline in football participation. Now some schools are getting creative". Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved 2023-11-16.
  19. ^ Nader, Ralph; Reed, Kenneth (November 8, 2016). "The X's and O's of brain injury and youth football". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 27, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  20. ^ Cantu, " Concussions and Our Kids"
  21. ^ Paul Solotaroff, "This Is Your Brain on Football" Archived October 1, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, January 31, 2013, Rolling Stone
  22. ^ Toporek, Bryan (December 6, 2012). "New: High School Football Can Lead to Long-Term Brain Damage, Study Says". Education Week. Archived from the original on August 2, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  23. ^ "Deadly Hits: The Story of Ex-football Player Chris Coyne". Lauren Tarshis YouTube page. Lauren Tarshis. September 21, 2012. Archived from the original on May 28, 2017. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  24. ^ Preps at greater concussion risk Archived November 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, ESPN, Tom Farrey, October 31, 2013.
  25. ^ Moran, Barbara (July 26, 2017). "BU Researchers Find CTE in 99% of Former NFL Players Studied". The Brink. Boston University.
  26. ^ Willigenburg, N. W.; Borchers, J. R.; Quincy, R.; Kaeding, C. C.; Hewett, T. E. (2016). "Comparison of Injuries in American Collegiate Football and Club Rugby: A Prospective Cohort Study - Nienke W. Willigenburg, James R. Borchers, Richard Quincy, Christopher C. Kaeding, Timothy E. Hewett, 2016". The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 44 (3): 753–60. doi:10.1177/0363546515622389. PMID 26786902. S2CID 21829142.
  27. ^ Quinn, Elizabeth (November 27, 2019). "Common Aches, Pains, and Injuries You Can Expect From Playing Football". Verywell Fit.
  28. ^ Makovicka, J. L.; Patel, K. A.; Deckey, D. G.; Hassebrock, J. D.; Chung, A. S.; Tummala, S. V.; Hydrick, T. C.; Gulbrandsen, M.; Hartigan, D. E.; Chhabra, A. (2019). "Lower Back Injuries in National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Players: A 5-Season Epidemiological Study". Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 7 (6). doi:10.1177/2325967119852625. PMC 6582304. PMID 31245431.
  29. ^ "High School Sports News - live scores, stats, standings and projections". High School Sports News.
  30. ^ Adame, Tony (May 13, 2022). "Biggest High School Football Stadiums". Stadium Talk.[unreliable source?]
  31. ^ "Stadiums with Capacity Greater Than 16,500". TexasBob.com.[unreliable source?]
  32. ^ Shelton, Chris; Young, Matt (August 3, 2022). "Texas high school football: The 20 biggest, most expensive stadiums". Houston Chronicle.