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A Daunting Task: Implementing High School Football Rules Changes

by Robert Mingolelli
 
The switch from NCAA to National Federation High School rules this season will be a daunting task for high school officials and coaches.
     The new rules are a major change. “For us (coaches) it is mainly a learning process, but it will be extremely difficult for the officials, especially those that also work college games where the NCAA rules are still used,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Tom Sousa.
     “One major area is the elimination of cut blocking,” continued Sousa. “We haven't been a team that cut very often but some kids had learned how to cut in the past and occasionally used the technique. After our first scrimmage we had to make sure those kids knew they could no longer use that method.” (In football, cut blocking or "chop-blocking” is an offensive line technique that consists of an offensive player knocking a defensive player down by hitting his knees)
     The new rule states that blocking below the waist is legal only when the offensive and de- fense player and the ball are in the free blocking zone (four yards laterally on either side of the ball and three yards behind each line of scrimmage).
     “The timing of play will be an adjustment. Eight minute quarters used to be the norm but they are now 12 minutes. The 40 second clock between plays starts a little faster and the limited automatic first downs will take some getting used to, but probably the most noticeable will be that each team only has 3 timeouts per half,” continued Sousa.
     Intentional grounding may be called if the quarterback leaves the pocket and does not throw the ball in the area of an eligible receiver.
     Defensive pass interference may be called whether or not the pass is judged catchable and will result in a 15 yard penalty.
     A fumble forward that goes out of bounds ahead of the line of the gain, can result in a first down on fourth down.
     If a player lines up in the neutral zone, the play is blown dead and a penalty is enforced.
     “We have attended information sessions, discussed the changes as a staff and with the players. It shouldn't be a big deal but certainly will be a learning process for everyone. Last week in our third scrimmage, even the officials disagreed about a rules interpretation,” added Sousa.
 
Editor’s note: Hopefully, this brief summary of high school foot- ball rule changes will pique your curiosity. There are several more NFHS rule changes which may be found on the National Federation High School and MIAA sites. Before we fans and parents alike start berating the officials at local football games, better check the rules!
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