Stevens: Knowing high school rules can pay off

tstevens@newsobserver.comOctober 9, 2012 

Knowing the rules can be the difference in winning and losing a high school football game as it was a couple of weeks ago when East Duplin defeated Hampstead Topsail, 26-21.

Topsail led 21-20 in the closing seconds as East Duplin attempted a field goal. The kick was blocked so solidly that the ball caromed backward. As the clock went to zeroes and the Topsail players ran toward their bench to celebrate the apparent win, East Duplin’s Montrell Stallings picked up the ball and ran to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

In high school, a kick that does not go beyond the line of scrimmage can be advanced by either team.

There are several differences in high school and college rules.

Could you be a replacement ref? Did you know these rules?

A. The team that is kicking off cannot block until the ball goes 10 yards or the ball is touched by the receiving team. In the past, teams occasionally kicked the ball very slowly and formed a wall of blockers around the ball as the ball rolled forward with the intention of keeping the receiving team away from the ball until it travelled 10 yards and could be recovered. The penalty now is a 10 yards on the kicking team and a re-kick.

B. There can never be a 101-yard kickoff return in high school. The ball cannot be returned out of the end zone.

C. The defensive team cannot score after a turnover in overtime. As soon as the defensive team gains possession, the play is dead. The defense cannot score on extra point attempts.

D. Blocking below the waist is allowed only at the line of scrimmage on the snap. Linebackers cannot be cut blocked and the fullback cannot cut block defensive ends.

E. There is no “ball not catchable” provision for pass interference in high school football. Also, face guarding is pass interference in high school, but not college.

F. Intentional grounding can be called even if a high school quarterback is outside the tackles. There is no outside-the-tackle provision in high school.

G. If the receiving team muffs a kick, the kicking team can recover the ball, but not advance it. A muff occurs when a player on the receiving team drops the ball without ever having possession.

H. On a kickoff, the kicking team cannot catch the ball in the air. The ball must hit the ground or a receiver first.

I. In high school, the play is immediately dead if a defender enters the neutral zone (the area between the offensive and defensive lines) before the snap. Play stops immediately.

J. Breaking the huddle with 12 players is not a violation in high school. Players being substituted for must leave the field within three seconds, though.

K. If a helmet comes completely off without it being directly attributable to a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for at least one down. The team can call a timeout, but the player still misses one down. Much of the research supporting the need for the helmet rule in high school football was conduced by the N.C. High School Athletic Association when its officials tracked how many helmets were coming off.

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