Rule changes approved for prep football

Campbell's Austin May was swarmed by the Kapolei defense in a game in 2014.  New rules will make it even harder for defenders to make clean hits on opposing players. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Campbell’s Austin May was swarmed by the Kapolei defense in a game in 2014. New rules will make it even harder for defenders to make clean hits on opposing players. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

HHSAA Football Officials Coordinator clears up rule changes

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.


  1. 88 February 28, 2017 6:05 pm

    Its a great day to be a QB and a terrible one for every other position.

  2. Coach_B February 28, 2017 6:22 pm

    That new additions to the defenseless player rule are ridiculous. This isn’t the NFL where these guys are getting paid millions. There’s no money incentive to give the QBs and WRs special protection. How are these guys supposed to play defense? I’d say that most sacks occur when the QB is about to pass. How are you supposed to pressure the QB now? How are DBs supposed to play defense if you can’t hit WRs as they reach for a catch? “Attempting to catch a pass” basically means that there’s going to be a PI or unnecessary roughness penalty on every pass that isn’t picked. Unreal

  3. anywaaaays!! February 28, 2017 6:37 pm

    Can we now call this flag football already? Real men are now playing rugby

  4. Killingme February 28, 2017 7:19 pm

    So weak!!! I can see the blind side hits but for the qb one that is ridiculous! That’s the whole part of the game! Teach ur players to block and ur receivers to get open and he won’t get hit! Teach ur qb to get out of the pocket and buy some time! I don’t see how high school football can be fun to watch or play anymore! I feel bad for this new generation of kids that has all these obstacles they have to go through! Just let them play! The biggest one is the head to head contact which helps the problem but then the qb has to see u before u can hit them!!! why don’t we just have the defense play with out pad and only helmet and the offense can suit up fullpads! Smh

  5. redblueallday February 28, 2017 7:30 pm

    “A player in the act of throwing a pass” is considered defenseless? How do these kids play defense?

  6. Bulukex February 28, 2017 8:03 pm

    So basically you can’t touch the quarterback? What keeps him from simply trying to pass to force a penalty? Y’all some idiots for this crap. Catering to all these mahu pass-happy teams. Heck lingerie football has more contact.

  7. anywaaaays!! February 28, 2017 8:15 pm

    The two positions they are protecting the most, QB & WR, are the two that historically see the least amount of contact during a game, which translate into these two positions having longer careers in the sport. Its no wonder because these two positions are what generate the offensive excitement of a football game which leads to ticket sales and the sports revenue.

    The brutal hits on WRs who are crossing the middle of the field are the fault of the QBs bad decision to throw him the ball yet we are creating rules to stop a defense from doing their job? The QB position just got dummied down.

    Yet the real workers on the field are the linemen, linebackers and running backs and they have no rules protecting them, they are the ones suffering from lifelong injuries to their bodys and heads. The only real solution to protecting these positions is to not have them suit up at all, yes the end of football is in sight, but until then lets shorten their career, use them for 2-3 years before their injuries become a liability and then release them and sign the next fresh rookie out of college. NFL= Not For Long

    Rugby has now passed football as the perfect combination of power, speed, and strategy of a gladiator sport. Football is no longer a mans sport, its a money sport – call it flag football or arena football already.

  8. Prep football is stupid February 28, 2017 8:39 pm

    That qb rule is stupid because now what is the point of having D-Line? Hawaii football should just be 7 on 7 already because of this stupid rule

  9. 88 February 28, 2017 9:45 pm

    I believe the QB/WR rules would work if we had 1. instant replay and 2. FIT referees. To many times there have been terrible judgment calls and penalties called from an umpire who is either too far away or on the opposite side of the play. Should be an interesting season. Hope the OIA has a safety plan after the game for these refs.

  10. rpaahana February 28, 2017 9:46 pm

    This is what happens when the motives are to avoid lawsuits. I am all for the health and safety of the kids but this is not that. Players have been getting hurt for generations and no one cared until it started to cost them money. Football is what it is. These rules change the nature of the game. Not being able to hit a player throwing a pass? WTH! Bet money. QBs will try to draw penalties like basketball. Stop with all the new rules. Give people all the relevant info and let them decide to play or not. If they deem the risk is worth it God bless. Just make everyone sign a waiver that covers all injuries resulting from gameplay. Equipment and field conditions would still be organizers responsibility.

  11. Smh February 28, 2017 10:23 pm

    Minus well play two hand touch smh, these rules are for flag football players. I’m a former player and I’m disappointed in these rules, I don’t wanna watch high school football in Hawaii again.

  12. ??? February 28, 2017 11:06 pm

    Put FLAGS on all players and give every kid a Trophy!! HS Football rules has become a JOKE especially in Hawaii. Pretty soon all games will be played on giant beds cause the field turf is Too Hard. SMH…..

  13. Mahatma Gandhi March 1, 2017 3:51 am

    I seen Kahuku LB Manaia Atuaia lay out a St Louis punt cover man in the 2015 state championship football game. Vicious hit. The guy’s helmet went flying 20 yards. He was down for 5 minutes. Manaia was thrown out of the game for that blindside hit. For all St Louis has done to destroy the competitive balance of Hawaii state football, I was happy to see that hit.

  14. Sole March 1, 2017 5:34 am

    This is crazy! We not helping these kids move on in this sport by babying them. Did I just read that these guys can’t get touched unless it’s with open hands first? Isn’t that two hand touch? So, what happens when these players start accumulating unbelievable stats, because the rules cater to them, move on to these mainland colleges, & aren’t used to getting hit? Have we helped them get ready for the next level? If they’ve never gotten hit for 4 years in Hawaii high school, the first time they get hit by a linebacker in a place that doesn’t have these rules may be even more of a dangerous situation. Just my opinion….

  15. eastsiderocks March 1, 2017 6:21 am

    no sense have kick offs, after a touchdown & a extra point, take the ball & spot it on the 25 yard line, & start another series, you take away on side kicks, just as well take away the kickoff, for safety measures…..

  16. Dylan March 1, 2017 7:34 am

    These rules are ridiculous and Hawaii highschool football, especially defensive players, will fall behind nationally and be unprepared for college. I strongly urge referees to evaluate how closely they will follow these guidelines because they totally change the game, hurt our athletes, and the sport is much worse off because of them.

  17. phILHarmonic March 1, 2017 9:03 am

    Will these rules be implemented at the youth league level? Really sets them up to struggle if they not being taught this way and then expect to change it once they reach HS.

    I guess all we can do is adapt. Coaches, get out those notebooks and start working on your plans for drills to accommodate these rules, football is right around the corner!!

  18. rrforlifebaby March 1, 2017 9:29 am

    Crazy! Especially the first rule re “act of throwing”. At what point do they define “act of throwing”????? Will some of these rules also be implemented at the collegiate and pro levels? Might as well scrap tackle football as we know it and just have 7 on 7 flag football. Or better yet, like someone else mentioned, bring on RUGBY!!! It’ll be easy for us country folk to transition since Big Red is already establishing a national level program.


  19. YNAE March 1, 2017 9:52 am

    Safety is a good thing and bad ref’s better be on their toes because when they make a bad call during a play-off all I can say is good luck you ref’s wear a helmet.

  20. Matt Sumstine March 9, 2017 7:29 pm

    As far as the Pop-Up kick, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t care for it but since it is a rule change it is now eliminated.
    The defenseless player updates do not change how games are officiated. The QB always had special contact protection under the roughing the passer rules and the defenseless player definition does not change any contact rules. The same is true of the rest of the defenseless player definitions listed above.
    The Blindside Block (BSB) and Defenseless Receiver (DR) rules have been in practice since 2015. All coaches and officials were provided access to the Hawaii produced training videos in 2015. The transition to the open hand BSB was fairly quick. Please see the links to the training videos listed below.
    2015 Original Introduction to BSB

    2015 BSB Update

    2015 BSB Update

    2016 BSB Punt Play

    2016 General Training Video (Play #9 6:25)(Play #13 9:50)

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