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Changes Made to "Blocking Below the Waist" Rule for 2021

The National Federation of High Schools Football Rules Committee has approved a change to the rule concerning blocking below the waist in the free blocking zone. The committee held their annual meeting (virtually this year) January 10-12th. The rule change was subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

The free-blocking zone is a rectangular area extending laterally 4 yards either side of the spot of the snap and 3 yards behind each line of scrimmage. The new requirement is that the block must be an immediate, initial action following the snap. Under the current rule, there was some gray area about whether an offensive lineman could delay and then block below the waist if the ball is still in the zone. In the committee’s ongoing quest to minimize risk in high school football and clarify the rule for the officials, the change was approved to require the block to be immediate.

This is not a vastly different change as some officials associations were calling this rule as "initial contact". “This change makes it easier for game officials to judge the legality of blocks below the waist and minimizes risk of injury for participants,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and liaison to the Football Rules Committee. “This change lets game officials observe the block and make a call without having to determine where the ball is and what formation the offense lined up in.”

Blocking in the back continues to be legal in the free-blocking zone by offensive linemen who are on the line of scrimmage and in the zone at the snap, against defensive players who are in the zone at the snap and the contact is in the zone.

This was the only rule change for 2021 other than some editorial changes. Points of emphasis for this season are sportsmanship, intentional grounding and ineligible lineman downfield on pass attempts.


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