New high school football rule changes: Are you in favor?

Area coaches give their thoughts on new illegal blocking and intentional grounding rules

Chippewa Hills football coach Mark PeLong said he favors the MHSAA rule changes affecting his sport.

Chippewa Hills football coach Mark PeLong said he favors the MHSAA rule changes affecting his sport.

File photo

BIG RAPIDS – Three new rule changes  from the MHSAA for football have been introduced this fall.

The change to a playing rule most likely to be noticed by spectators comes in football, where intentional grounding has been adjusted to allow for a passer to throw an incomplete forward pass to conserve yardage – which is basically to throw the ball away to avoid being tackled for a loss, even when a receiver isn’t present near the pass’s destination – if the passer is outside the free-blocking zone, or “pocket,” and as long as the pass reaches the line of scrimmage or extension of the neutral zone beyond the sideline.

The MHSAA said this change makes the high school intentional grounding rule mirror those at the collegiate and professional levels, and was made to conserve the amount of contact by defensive players with passers.

“I like that this rule is being streamlined with college and professional football,” Evart coach Pat Craven said. “It makes total sense to me and I do not have any issues with it at all.”

A second football rule change also was made with safety in mind, as the illegal chop block was redefined to include any combination block by multiple teammates against the same opponent where one of the blocks is above the waist and the other is below the waist. Previously, the knee (instead of the waist) was the determining factor on a chop block.

“The illegal chop block rule change will not have any effect on our blocking style or technique,” Craven said. “We do not teach that type of blocking anyway. I do think it will make it easier for officials to see and call. Most of the time when this foul occurs, it is because of a missed blocking assignment by one of the lineman anyway. If our kids know their job and are confident in their responsibilities, this should not be an issue.”

The MHSAA said this change also is expected to assist officials in enforcing the rule because deciding if blocks occur above and below the waste is more straightforward than using the knee to decide if an infraction occurred.

“The intentional grounding rule is a good change,” Chippewa Hills coach Mark PeLong said. “The game has changed in the last 20 years where in many cases teams are either very balanced run/pass or Air Raid where they are throwing it three out of four downs. The chop block rule will make it easier for officials to determine the proper enforcement of the rule.”   

The MHSAA said another football rule change will be noticeable during the MHSAA 11-Player Finals, as head coaches for the first time will be allowed one challenge per game, with the play in question then reviewed with video replay.

“The challenge will cost that team a timeout if the original outcome is confirmed,” the MHSAA said. “Coaches will be allowed to challenge the following: complete/incomplete passes, if a runner/receiver was in/out of bounds, a runner who is ruled not down, the forward progress spot as it relates to the yard to gain, which player first touched a kick, the recovery of a ball in/out of bounds, if a pass was forward or backward, and penalties for illegal forward pass, targeting or illegal helmet contact, and pass interference only as it relates to the pass being previously tipped.”

All potential scores and turnovers will remain automatically reviewed by replay booth officials.

“This would be a great rule to have to deal with, meaning we would be playing for a state championship,” Craven said. “I welcome the opportunity to apply this rule change. All in all, I am not in favor of different rules for different games. I do believe that we should not do it unless it is available during all levels of the regular and postseason.”