Football rules many fans do not know

Published 11:32 pm Sunday, November 2, 2014

Officials do not get the credit they deserve from fans. I’ve covered and reported on around 20 high school football games this year and through most of the them, in my opinion, the officiating has been fair or above average.

Being the sports fanatic I am, I’ve been in the stands and I’ve been the person booing those wearing black and white stripes. When my team is losing, the officials aren’t usually getting a high grade from me. I get it.

But there are three rules that all of us need to review as a community, because the officials continue to correctly call them while getting booed from the stands.  Here they are:

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1) Defensive pass interference is no longer an automatic first down. This rule was changed by the National Federation of High School Associations in 2013. The first time I saw a defensive pass interference call this year it came in a huge moment in one of Selma’s biggest games in years. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa was called for defensive pass interference in the end zone on fourth down, but the Saints were not awarded a first down. There was only two minutes left in the fourth quarter and Selma was trailing, so it was a huge moment in the game. I quietly thought the call was wrong, but instead I was wrong. The officials correctly marked off the 15 yards and then again called it fourth down. At every game I’ve seen this year, this call has been correct. It was made three or four times in Friday’s Ellwood Christian-Selma game and every time the right call was made.

2) A muffed punt cannot be returned for any yardage. This one always confuses people and it’s understandable, but it’s a rule that as far as I know has been in place for a long time at every level of football. A muffed punt, which is described as touching the ball prior to possessing it, is given to the recovering team at the spot where the ball is recovered. There was a play in the Ellwood-Selma game where the momentum appeared to swing on a muffed punt by Selma, which was returned for a touchdown by Ellwood. Officials correctly ruled for the ball to be spotted at the point of the recovery, which would be the correct call at the high school level (under NFHS rules), college and the NFL. Eagles fans understandably disagreed, but it was the right call.

3) A failed extra point or two-point try cannot be returned by the defense for points. Almost every week it seems like a team’s two-point conversion try is intercepted or fumbled and the defense tries to run it back for two-points. In the collegiate game, a two-point try can be returned for two points by the defense, but that’s the only level of play this writer knows of where that rule holds true. In the high school game, a failed two-point try or blocked extra point is blown dead as soon as it happens.

My point is simply this: Let’s give the officials a break. Not every call they make is correct, but more often that not they know the rules better than us.