Test your knowledge of the high school football rule book with help from Patrick Miles, a member of the Executive Board of the Milwaukee Officials Association and an official who has worked WIAA state championships, the NCAA Division III national championship and other NCAA contests, including the Big Ten.
Nov. 15 scenario: On fourth and 10, Franklin punts to Mukwonago, and it bounces once on the Mukwonago 20 before getting touched at the 10 by an MHS player. The back judge drops a bean bag to spot the "first touch," and it rolls to the 5-yard line where a Franklin player tries to pick up the ball. It hits off his leg and rolls into the end zone, where another Mukwonago player pounces on it. Is it a touchdown?
Miles: This is similar to what happened to the Green Bay Packers against the Philadelphia Eagles. Franklin may either take the result of the play or retain possession by taking the ball at the spot of Mukwonago's first touching. The only way Franklin waives this right is if they commit a penalty after touching the ball that is accepted during the down. Even if Franklin had picked it up and run 25 yards before fumbling, Franklin still has the right to take the result of the ply or retain possession at spot of first touch (at its own 10-yard line in this case).
Nov. 8 scenario: Down by a touchdown with 1:00 to play, Germantown lines up from its own 40 for an onside kick against Arrowhead. The ball reaches the 46-yard line before a Germantown player muffs the ball, which then touches an Arrowhead player and goes out of bounds at the 48. Who gets the ball?
Miles: Plymouth's touching is now ignored, and this becomes simply a free kick that went out of bounds. Plymouth has the option of accepting the ball at the spot it was first touched (the covering official would drop a bean bag to identify the spot) or have a penalty enforced for the free kick out of bounds. Plymouth can ask for a re-kick, can take hte ball at the spot where the ball went out or accept the ball 25 yards from the yard-line of the free kick (typically the 35).
Nov. 1 scenario: Backed up against his own end zone, Franklin quarterback Sean McGuire attempts to get some breathing room himself. He takes the snap from center, rolls left and finds himself in trouble against a fleet of Kenosha Indian Trail defenders. He goes airborne and reaches out across the end-zone line, but he's hit and sent backward. The official rules that the nose of the ball made it beyond the goal line, so is it a safety?
Miles: It's a safety. Different from elsewhere on the field, the goal line should be treated as a vertical plane when ruling the ball going in or out of the end zone. The entire football must break the plane to be a touchdown, and it must be completely out of the end zone on the other end, or it's a safety. If a runner brings the ball completely out of the end zone before being tackled and driven backward, he's given forward progress and the ruling is that it is not a safety.
Oct. 25 scenario: Sussex Hamilton drops back for a rare pass in its Level 1 football game against Brookfield Central, and quarterback Mike Barnes lofts a ball down the sideline to Ryan Warzon, guarded step-for-step by Central defensive back Terry Wallen. Wallen doesn't turn toward the ball, but raises his arms and positions himself so that Warzon can't see the oncoming pass, and it deflects off the back of Wallen's head for an incomplete pass. Did Wallen do anything illegal?
Miles: High-school football is the only level which has "face guarding" as a foul. Rule 7-5-10 states: It is forward-pass interference if any player hinders an opponent's vision without making an attempt to catch, intercept or bat the ball, even though not contact was made.
Oct. 18 scenario: Waukesha West's Elijah Fort takes a handoff and moves upfield, where he's met by Mukwonago linebacker Dominic Cizauskas. Cizauskas grabs Fort's shoulder-pad opening from behind and rides the West running back for several yards before Fort falls forward. Is this an illegal "horse collar" tackle?
Miles: No, the tackle is legal. The NFH S has a different definition for what makes a horse-collar tackle legal. If the defensive player grabs the shoulder pad opening from behind and pulls him down abruptly, pulls him to the ground from the side, or pulls him backward after riding him for several yards, that's illegal. If the runner falls forward or another player comes in to execute the tackle while the first defender is latched on, it's legal.
Oct. 11 scenario: With 30 seconds on the clock of a tie game near midfield, Messmer/Shorewood quarterback Taylor Dennis finds tight end Jonathan Carson on a slant pass on 1st and 10. Carson runs toward the first-down marker near the sideline, then leaps in the air trying to hurdle Lake Country Lutheran defender Murphy Shannon, who rises in time to knock an airborne Carson out of bounds with 25 seconds left, two yards shy of the first down. With precious seconds slipping away, should the clock be stopped?
Miles: There's a new rule in play regarding timing when an airborne receiver, who has possession of the ball, is carried out of bounds by a defender. If the receiver has not made the line to gain (first down), the covering official will keep the clock running even though the receiver ends up out of bounds because he is ruling forward progress has been stopped. If the receiver had made the line to gain, the covering official will stop the clock. The clock will start on the ready for play signal by the referee.
Oct. 4 scenario: During a punt, three linemen take off down the field before the ball is kicked. Later in the game, an offensive lineman contacts a defensive end on the line of scrimmage and drives him back two yards before the pass is thrown. Which play results in a flag for ineligibile man downfield?
Miles: Neither. In the first scenario, this is perfectly legal in a high-school game; anyone can head downfield once a ball is snapped. That's also true in the NCAA, but the NFL prohibits linemen from getting downfield too soon. In the latter example, the offensive lineman is not illegally downfield, nor has he committed pass interference because he contacted his man on the line of scrimmage and did not go beyond the "expanded neutral zone." The neutral zone may be expanded following the snap up to a maximum of two yards behind the defensive line of scrimmage in the field of play during any scrimmage down (but not extended into the end zone). If it's a low punt and the defensive lineman touches it, the touching is ignored because he's considered to be on his line when he's within one yard of his line of scrimmage at the snap.
Sept. 27 scenario: When the helmet of an Arrowhead receiver comes off during a play, officials rule that the player must leave the field for a mandatory one play. Coach Greg Malling doesn't want his player to leave the field, so he calls timeout, but the referee does not allow the player to return after the pause in the action. Why not?
Miles: If a player's helmet comes off after a legal block to or from the opponent, or after he falls to the ground without contact, the player must be replaced for one down unless halftime or an overtime intermission occurs. A timeout does not keep a player in the game, nor can the team opt for a 10-second runoff of any kind. In college, a player may return to the field if a timeout is called, or the college team can opt for a 10-second runoff in the final minute of either half. In the NFL, players are allowed to stay in the game no matter how their helmet comes off.
Sept. 18 scenario: During a kickoff, the ball lands at the 10-yard line, bounces once and is touched by a player from the receiving team at the 5-yard line. The ball then rolls into the end zone. Just after crossing the goal line, a member of the kicking team falls on the ball. Is it a safety or a touchback?
Miles: Touchback. Because the ball was touched but never possessed by the receiving team; once the ball breaks the plane of the goal line, it is a touchback. By rule, it was the kick that forced the ball into the end zone. If the receiving team had possessed the ball and then fumbled it backward into the endzone, the end result would be a touchdown (if recovered by the kicking team) or safety.
Sept. 11 scenario: Greendale quarterback Josh Ringelberg drops back and throws a pass 15 yards downfield toward receiver Cody Kmetz. Ten yards beyond the neutral zone and while the ball is in the air, Pewaukee's Evan Hansen makes clear contact with Kmetz, but Ringelberg's ball is more than 10 yards past Kmetz. The referee considers a flag for pass interference, but how does the referee determine if the pass should be ruled uncatchable?
Miles: There is no such thing as an "uncatchable" pass in high school football as it relates to pass interference. Defensive pass interference is the call because the contact occurred after the ball left the passer's hand, and the penalty is 15 yards or half the distance to the goal from the previous spot, plus an automatic first down.
Sept. 6 scenario: Germantown quarterback Dwayne Lawhorn Jr. drops back to float a screen pass to Nick Holcomb, who has drifted behind the neutral zone. With the ball in the air, Whitefish Bay linebacker Tyler Terveer bumps Holcomb, causing the ball to pop into the air. Terveer intercepts it, and Holcomb makes a quick tackle. Does the play result in pass interference?
Miles: Because the ball never crossed the neutral zone, there is no foul for defensive pass interference. The ball belongs to Whitefish Bay where Terveer was downed.
Aug. 30 scenario: Oconomowoc kicker Casey Bednarski lines up for a game winning field goal in his team's battle with Muskego, trailing 14-13 with one second on the clock. The 35-yard kick sails directly over the right upright as time expires. Who wins the game?
Miles: Fans, players and coaches for years have always thought if the ball travels over either one of the uprights, the kick is good. That is not the case and in the play mentioned above; by rule, the kick is no good. If any part of the football is ‘outside the inside of the upright extended,’ the kick is no good. Rule 8-4-1c states: The kicked ball shall pass between the vertical uprights or the inside of the uprights extended and above the crossbar of the opponent’s goal. Case Book play 8.4.1 Situation A provides the following: The field goal attempt: (a) goes directly over an upright; or (b) is clearly over the cross bar between the uprights. In (a) and (b), the ball is blown back by the wind so that it drops into B’s end zone. RULING: In (a), it is an unsuccessful attempt because the ball did not penetrate the plane of the goal between the inside of the uprights extended. It is a legal goal in (b) and it doesn’t matter if the ball comes back above or below the crossbar.
*Scenarios are theoretical
To submit a question to referee Patrick Miles, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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