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Rules change for upcoming football year PDF E-mail

Your favorite high school football team faces third-and-18 with time winding down. The quarterback drops back to pass and throws to a receiver running down the sideline.

The defender, trailing the play, pushes the receiver and the pass falls incomplete. Sure enough, the yellow flag comes flying.

Defensive pass interference. The referee marches 15 yards from the original line of scrimmage, but then signals that it’s third down with three yards to go.

Isn’t it supposed to be an automatic first down?

This year, it is not.

That part of the pass interference penalty no longer exists, thanks to a rule change by the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS), one of several in football for this coming season.

The 15-yard penalty remains in effect, but the automatic first down for defensive pass interference is gone, along with the loss of down for offensive pass interference.

“Offensive and defensive pass interference and the penalty structure related to these fouls has been debated many times in recent years,” said Brad Garrett, chair of the NFHS football rules committee. “Proposals that either deleted the loss of down or the automatic first down -- but not both -- failed to gain support among committee members. The proposal to eliminate both components, thus not upsetting the balance between offense and defense, was the key factor in the adoption of the new rule.”

Even the act of catching a football had a rule change.

Your favorite team’s receiver, with forward progress stopped inbounds, leaps and catches a pass while carried out of bounds by a defender before hitting a ground. Is it a catch?

This year, the answer is yes. The receiver gets credit for the catch at the spot of forward progress.

Another rule change is if kick-catch interference is called, a 15-yard penalty was added to accepting an awarded fair catch.

In the name of safety, additional rules were approved addressing players’ helmets removed during games.

An illegal personal contact penalty was added which prohibits anyone hitting an opposing player whose helmet has come off.

Also, anyone whose helmet comes off during a play cannot continue playing “beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged.” Should an athlete do so, it’s a spot foul for illegal participation.

If the helmet comes off during the down or dead-ball action and not directly caused by an opposing player’s penalty, the player whose helmet comes off must leave the game for a down.

“Player safety has been and will continue to be the top priority for members of the NFHS Football Rules Committee,” Garrett said. “These rules changes regarding helmet-less players are more examples of the group’s commitment to minimize risk within the game.”

Other football rule changes include expansion of communication devices in specific situations, clarifying that the touchdown-scoring team is the only one which can score on a point-after try and changes regarding wearing towels.

So if something is a little different with that pass interference penalty, it’s probably because the men in stripes are recognizing new guidelines.

The rules have changed.

NICK BENES can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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