Right around March 1 every year, the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) releases new and updated rules to the Football rule book.  I always find it interesting to see what is happening, and to start to prepare for the upcoming rules.  I remember in 2014 when they changed the depth of the kickoff team, our team was the ONLY one of the four at our scrimmage to know this rule.  Same for our week one game!

Here are the highlights for rules changes for 2017.

  1.  The establishment of a new definition of a blindside block in Rule 2-3-10 and the addition of Rule 9-4-3n prohibiting a blindside block were two of 11 rules changes recommended by the NFHS Football Rules Committee at its January 20-22 meeting in Indianapolis.

2.  The definition of a blindside block established by the committee is “a block against an opponent other than the runner, who does not see the blocker approaching,” and now results in a 15-yard penalty.

3.  The committee stated that the blindside block “involves contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration, is vulnerable to injury. Unless initiated with open hands, it is a foul for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside of the free-blocking zone.”

4.  Another significant risk-minimization change was elimination of a pop-up kick in new Rule 6-1-11. A new definition of a pop-up kick in Rule 2-24-10 is defined as “a free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee.”

5. 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.

6.  Changes to Rule 7-1-6 expand on the situations required for encroachment to occur after the ready-for-play and after the snapper has placed his hand(s) on the ball. The rule previously stated that encroachment occurred if “any other player breaks the plane of the neutral zone.” In addition, now defensive players are restricted from contacting the ball prior to the end of the snap or making contact with the snapper’s hand(s) or arm(s) until the snapper has released the ball.

7.  The remaining changes approved by the NFHS Football Rules Committee touched on a new ball specification (1-3-1h), uniforms [(1-5-1b(3)], game officials (1-5-4), post-scrimmage kick fouls (2-16-2h), penalty time clock management (3-4-7), prosthetic limbs (4-2-2l) and forward-pass interference (7-5-10), in which the previous foul for non-contact face guarding was eliminated as forward-pass interference.

You can read more about the new NFHS rules here.


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