The NFHS Football Rules Committee met January 23rd-25th in Indianapolis in their annual review of high school football rules. The continued desire for player safety has led to a couple of significant rules changes.
The Quarterback Can Now Throw the Ball Away Legally. The rules committee voted to allow the passer to throw the ball away when pressured without being penalized for intentional grounding. The passer must be outside the pocket and throw the ball at or beyond the neutral zone. In the past, the committee had been reluctant to change the rule, as they believed that they would be penalizing the defense for making a good play. The need for safety of the quarterback ultimately convinced the committee to make the change.
"Chop Block" Redefined. The committee also redefined the "chop block". In the past, this combination block had to be made with one blocker above the waist and the other below the knee. Now the rules reads "one blocker above and one below the waist". The belief is that officials will now be able to much better identify the block and make the call. This should also add to the safety of the game.
Fouls Inside Two Minutes and Clock Stoppage. Any foul committed within the final two minutes of either half will now result in the offended team's option to start the game clock on the snap. Prior, the offended team had to accept the opponent's penalty to gain control of the game clock. If the offensive team with the lead in the last 2 minutes commits a holding penalty on 3rd down, the defensive team can now decline the penalty to force a punt and choose to have the clock start on the snap.
The Number "0". Jersey number 0 is now eligible to be worn. However, 00 or 01, 02, etc are still ineligible numbers. This coincides with the latest college rules that allow for "0" to be worn.
Extending the Team Box. State associations are now permitted to extend the team box. Some states had started doing this already when the COVID-19 pandemic began. This allows state associations to adopt the rule officially and move the team box beyond the 25-yard line. However, the coaches box would remain the same. Currently the team box is 50 yards — going from one 25-yard-line to the other.
“With this year’s rules changes, the committee once again showed its focus on minimizing risk in high school football,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS Director of Sports and Sports Medicine and liaison to the NFHS Football Rules Committee. “By expanding the parameters for a legal forward pass and redefining the chop block so it can be more easily officiated by game officials, the committee has taken measures to mitigate two potentially risky situations within the game.”