THOMASVILLE -- Fear no more high school football fans. The infamous penetration rule is now a thing of the past. At least for the next two years.

Overtime in Georgia High School Association originally consisted of two five-minute periods, and if the score was still tied, the winner is determined based on deeper penetration.

For example, last year's thrilling Thomasville-Thomas County Central game was tied at the end of regulation and went into two overtime "halves."

Neither Central nor THS was able to score in the extra time.

But because Central was able to get closer to the Thomasville goal line than the Bulldogs' were able to get near Central's end zone, the Yellow Jackets were able to escape with a 29-28 decision.

But many fans at the game, unfamiliar with the ruling, were puzzled when Central players began celebrating when time ran out in the second OT period and the score still tied at 28.

The GHSA approved a new system Monday on a two-year trial basis. The new overtime system will let each team have one possession at the opponent's 15-yard line.

The team that has the lead after both possessions wins. If the score remains tied, the game keeps going.

The new system is similar to the college method that gives each team a possession at the opponent's 25-yard line.

Like colleges, the state's high school teams also will have to go for a two-point conversion in overtime after their third touchdown.

The overtime change got mixed reactions from area high school coaches.

Thomas County Central head coach Ed Pilcher has had his share of overtime games to deal with, including thrilling games this year against Thomasville and Marist in the Georgia Dome.

He said while there's more strategic moves made in the old system, the new plan is much better, from a fans' point of view.

"I've got mixed emotions on that," Pilcher said. "I hate to see anybody lose on penetration, but there's more strategy involved. It was a chess match and you had to think two steps ahead."

"There's no mystery with this. It's a lot easier to understand for the fans."

Thomasville head coach Tommy Welch is happy that a change has been made.

"I've enjoyed the way the colleges do it," Welch said. "I think it's something fans will understand better."

Both coaches admit that the old system wasn't exactly their favorite rule.

"I never was much for the penetration rule," Welch said.

"For the longest time I didn't like it," Pilcher said. "I'd gotten used to the old way now."

The change also means more time will have to be spent on plays that could come into effect if the game goes into overtime.

"Now you've got to put more emphasis on the goal line offense and the goal line defense," Pilcher said. "The kicking game also comes into effect.

"With penetration it was just a mini-game. There's no way to practice for that. The strategy is somewhat different."

Ralph Swearngin, the executive director of the Georgia High School Association, said the change should make high school games more interesting.

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