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An inside look at area high school football.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Knowing the Rules

In my many years as a high school football fan, former official and currently as a journalist one of most enjoyable part of Friday night's has been listening to the fans in the stands yelling at the officials.

Most fans don't understand the differences between high school football and the NFL and college varieties which each have their own rule book. I am sure the number has changed since than, but a few seasons ago someone counted 268 differences between High Schools and NCAA rules.

The differences between high school and NFL rules are even greater.

So just because you saw the Browns or the Buckeyes do it on TV, doesn't mean you can do it on Friday nights.

To help the fans TRY to understand the rules better, here are the rule changes for the 2009 season. You will see that some are just administrative changes, while some are changes that will have an effect on the game.

(The Numbers and Letters refer to the section in the rule book where the rules are found)

1-2-3b NOTE 2 (NEW): All required field markings must be clearly visible.

1-3-1c: Stripes located on the football must be adjacent to and perpendicular to the seam upon which the laces are stitched.

2-14-2; 7-2-5: The definition of a scrimmage-kick formation was clarified to differentiate formations that have been used traditionally for attempting a field goal or kick try from those used for a punt. The circumstances under which the numbering exception can be used have been changed to clarify what can be done on first, second, third and fourth downs.

Table 3-1; 9-8-1g: The mandatory three-minute warm-up period begins immediately following the conclusion of the halftime intermission. The head coach of each team is responsible for his team being on the field for the warm-up period.

3-3-4b5 (NEW): If a penalty resulting in a safety occurs on the last timed down of a period, the period is not extended.

8-2-2; 8-2-3; 8-2-4 (NEW); 10-5-1f: Three rules were refined and a new article created regarding penalty enforcement for dead-ball, non-player or unsportsmanlike fouls that occur during or after a touchdown scoring play. Now, the scoring team, in most situations, has the option of enforcing the penalty on the subsequent kickoff.

9-4-3h: It is now illegal to grasp the opponent's chin strap.

9-4-3k (NEW): The horse-collar tackle has been added to the list of illegal personal contact fouls, regardless of where it occurs on the field. It is illegal to grasp the inside back or side opening of the collar of the jersey or shoulder pads of the runner and subsequently pull the runner to the ground.

9-7-2 EXCEPTION: The kicking team cannot bat a scrimmage kick that has not yet been grounded unless it is toward its own goal line. Scrimmage kicks may only be batted by the kicking team towards its own goal line.

1-2-3g; 9-8-3: A restricted area has been defined where a maximum of three coaches may communicate with players and substitutes during dead-ball situations. The coaches must move into the team box before the ball becomes live. There will no longer be an allowance for three coaches to remain in an area adjacent to the sideline during play.

The biggest changes will be the banning of the "horse collar" tackle which will bring high school rules in line with the other levels of football that have already banned the dangerous practice.

During the course of the season watch how these rules will affect your favorite team.

If you have any questions about specific rules after a game, feel free to contact me at I will try to answer some of your questions on this blog during the following week.

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