Countdown to kickoff: Rule change for 2023 alters how penalties are marked off

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Monday, August 21, 2023 | 10:38 PM


As with any new high school football season, there are plenty of changes with players, coaches and and even rules.

There are five rule changes for the 2023 football season. Some are minor and more aesthetic than anything else. Others are somewhat significant as administrators and officials continue their efforts to provide a safe game for all participants.

These rules were recommended by the National Federation of High Schools and approved by the PIAA.

John Yerage is the president of the Lawrence County chapter of PIAA officials. He has 40 years as a football official under his belt, 32 as an umpire and the last eight as a referee.

Yerage offers a more thorough explanation of the five rule changes for this season:

• Enforcement spot for fouls behind the line of scrimmage changed

The penalty enforcement spot for fouls committed behind the line of scrimmage is changed to the line of scrimmage (for most fouls). Previously, the enforcement spot was the spot of the foul. This change eliminates excessively penalizing fouls such as offensive holding that occur in the backfield. Penalties for fouls with a special enforcement remain unchanged, such as offensive holding in the end zone, illegal batting and illegal participation.

Helping the runner

Although NCAA and NFL rules permit players to assist a runner forward by pushing the pile, NFHS rules do not permit such action. Once a player is judged to have his forward progress stopped, the play is dead. Further pushing forward of the pile does not result in a gain of yardage.

Defenseless player definition clarified

The rule change removed a foul for vigorous contact against a defenseless player if the action is in the course of a normal tackling motion. Leading with the helmet and initial contact above the shoulder remain a foul.

Intentional grounding exception changed

Only the player receiving the snap may intentionally ground the ball. The change eliminates the possibility of a player on a pitch-back or a jet sweep receiving the ball from the quarterback and then intentionally grounding the pass legally. The criteria for the pass having to reach or go beyond the line of scrimmage, as well as the passer being outside the tackle box, remains in place.

Towels may be any color (except brown or yellow)

Players were previously required to have the same color towel. This change allows players of the same team to wear a towel of any solid color. Brown (football color) and yellow (penalty flag color) remain as prohibited colors.

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