09/16/11 — Stevens: These rules you just can't break on football field

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Stevens: These rules you just can't break on football field

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 16, 2011 1:49 PM

Rules -- as a kid it seemed like there were a million of them and in my mind most of them greatly limited my attempts to have fun. I later realized rules weren't in place to keep from having fun, they were there to protect me.

In the game of football, rules abound for many of the same reasons.

We're four weeks into the high school football season. My News-Argus sports department colleagues and I have already been approached with numerous questions about the rules of the game.

The following is my attempt to answer several of these questions the best that I can:

Kick return yardage

* Yardage gained on a kickoff or punt return is attributed differently than rushing or receiving yardage. A player may return a kickoff or punt 90 yards for a touchdown and theoretically finish the game with zero yards rushing and receiving if that same player does not record a single rush or reception.

Yards gained and touchdowns scored on kickoff or punt returns do not count toward rushing yardage.

Plays called back

* If team A has the ball on its own 40-yard line and its running back proceeds to race 60 yards to the end zone but is called for holding on the opponents' 40-yard line, the running back is only credited with 20 yards rushing to the spot of the foul.

The ball is then placed at the 50-yard line because team A is penalized 10 yards from the spot of the foul. If the foul occurs on or behind the line of scrimmage, the penalty is still assessed from the spot of the foul, but the ball carrier is not attributed with a rush or rushing yardage.

Face-mask penalties

* Contrary to popular belief, the 5-yard and 15-yard face mask penalties still exist on the high school level.

If an official determines that a player inadvertently grabbed an opponent's face mask, the penalty can be of the 5-yard variety. All intentional grabs of the face mask in an attempt to tackle or slow down an opponent remain 15-yard penalties.

Blocked punts

* Assessing punt return yardage can also be an area of confusion for the casual football fan.

If team A is lined up to punt at its own 30-yard line and team B blocks the punt at the 20-yard line, that is considered a punt for minus 10 yards. If team B then picks up the ball at the 20-yard line and returns it for a touchdown, those 20 yards are attributed as team return yards.

Horse collar penalties

* I've encountered different opinions already this season on the existence of a horse collar penalty in high school football.

According to the 2011 National Federation of High School Sports football rulebook, grabbing the inside back or side collar of the shoulder pads or jersey of the runner to pull that opponent to the ground is a horse collar penalty.

Horse collar penalties are to be treated as live ball fouls. The rule was added in 2009 and is a 15-yard infraction from the previous spot.

In closing

* Rules and regulations cannot be fully appreciated without room for humor. The rule I found most amusing in scanning all 112 pages of the NFHS rule book is Section 9, Article 5 which reads, "Neither team shall commit any act which, in the opinion of the referee, tends to make a travesty of the game."

Apparently, the quality of play by both teams and the officiating do not apply to this rule.