07/27/13 — NFHS changes draw positive reactions from coaches

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NFHS changes draw positive reactions from coaches

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 27, 2013 11:05 PM


GREENSBORO -- Rules revisions, clarifications and changes created quite a stir during the annual North Carolina Coaches Association clinic.

Some coaches left scratching their heads.

Others absorbed the information to think about later.

Most exited with the mindset that they'll do whatever the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) requires of them at their respective schools.

The NFHS unveiled two major points of emphasis that involve safety and will alleviate some of the violence associated with high school football. Intentional helmet-to-helmet contact where the top of the helmet meets an opponent's facemask is not permissible and will result in an ejection.

A player must stop pursuit if he loses his helmet during a play. If he continues, a 15-yard illegal participation penalty will be assessed by the referee. If contact is initiated with a helmet-less player, that also results in a personal contact foul.

The NFHS instituted the rule last season that a player must sit out one player if he loses his helmet during contact.

"There is definitely a need where the players' safety needs to come first," Rosewood High head coach Robert Britt said. "The path they're taking to educate the coaches and the players is doing it the right way. It's going to be up to the coaches that their players understand the importance of playing hard, but playing safe without taking the aggressiveness out of the game."

The changes brought about considerable discussion.

Coaches proposed to take the kickoff and punt out of the game to avoid dangerous, open-field tackles. Some suggested limiting body-to-body contact at practice, which has already been adopted by the Texas University Interscholastic League.

"Texas schools limit their live contact game-situation drills to 90 minutes a week," Britt said. "Football is a violent sport, a contact sport (and) if you try to take the contact away from it, I fear in the long run that might cause more injury.

"There is preparation that kids go through to get used to the contact they are going to see every Thursday and Friday night."

Defensive pass interference, offensive pass interference, airborne receivers and electronic devices also generated debate during the clinic, which closes out the annual NCCA East-West All-Star Games week.

The penalty remains 15 yards for a DPI infraction. However, it does not result in an automatic first down during long-yardage situations. Teams that commit the penalty with more than 15 yards to go won't give up a fresh set of downs, but just one play instead.

"That's kind of a shocker to me and I think that hurts a little bit because those yards can be valuable ... a critical situation that could result in either winning or losing the ballgame," Goldsboro head coach Eric Reid said. "Within a year's time or two, you might see them go back and revise it."

David Lee felt otherwise.

"I may be one of the only few, but I''m in agreement with that," Lee said. "There's no doubt it's either going to help you or hurt you. I'm not for automatic yardage unless it's first-down yardage to begin with, especially on a personal foul."

Offensive pass interference no longer results in a loss of down.

Beware the receiver on the sideline.

An airborne catch is ruled as such if the opposing defender wraps them up and drives them out of bounds. The receiver is considered to have caught the ball and forward progress is marked.

Should the receiver get pushed out of bounds by either a linebacker or defensive back, his foot much touch the turf in play.

Electronic devices such as iPads and tablets are permissible on the sidelines. Coaches may use them hypothetically to take photos of formations and institute changes on their next offensive possession.

"Do I like the rule? Yes," Spring Creek head coach Aaron Sanders said. "But if my school doesn't have the financial means to provide that, it's going to put me at a disadvantage. It does a lot for the teaching perspective of the game.

"I don't think the intention is to create a competitive advantage, but I do think that's going to happen. I think there is going to be more to come with that rule change."