New rules for high school football recommended by the NFHS Football Rules Committee in January were approved last week and have been put in place for the 2017 season.
An onside kick in which the kicker tries to drive the ball into the ground to pop back up into the air has been eliminated. Such kicks will be penalized as a 5-yard penalty with possession of the ball going to the return team.
The language involving rules regarding blindside blocks and defenseless players has also been changed to continue efforts to reduce high-risk plays.
A blindside block is considered as a block against an opponent other than the runner who does not see the blocker approaching. “Unless initiated with open hands, it’s a penalty for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside of the free-blocking zone.”
Basically, a hit on any player without the ball who does not see the hit coming will be flagged for 15 yards unless it is initiated with open hands.
According to a press release, the NFHS Football Rules Committee also expanded Rule 2-32-16 regarding a defenseless player by adding specific examples of a defenseless player. Those examples include, but are not limited to:
a) A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass;
b) A receiver attempting to catch a pass who has not had time to clearly become a runner;
c) The intended receiver of a pass in the action during and immediately following an interception or potential interception;
d) A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped;
e) A kickoff or punt returner attempting to catch or recover a kick, or one who has completed a catch or recovery and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier;
f) A player on the ground including a ball carrier who has obviously given himself up and is sliding feet-first;
g) A player obviously out of the play or not in the immediate vicinity of the runner; and
h) A player who received a blindside block with forceful contact not initiated with open hands.
The most notable line there is the first one, where hitting a quarterback who still has the ball in his hands as he’s throwing a pass (“a player in the act of throwing pass”) would be considered hitting a defenseless player.
Rule changes also involved a new ball specification, uniforms, game officials, post-scrimmage kick fouls, penalty time clock management, prosthetic limbs and forward-pass interference, in which the previous foul for non-contact face guarding was eliminated as forward-pass interference.