by RANDY GREGORY
With the start of the varsity football season less than three weeks away, the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced there will be several rule changes that will take effect at the onset of the season. The changes range from relatively minor uniform specifications to several potentially game-deciding modifications.
The changes are stated as follows:
• On passing plays, a receiver must first contact and establish control of the ball while inbounds, regardless of the opponent’s action. In other words, a catch cannot be ruled on plays where the receiver may have come down in bounds if not for the action of the defender.
• If a player’s helmet comes off during a play, and did not occur as a result of a foul by the opponent, that player must leave the game for one play, unless it happens on the final play of a half or an overtime.
• Hand contact by a blocker below the waist of a defender is now considered blocking below the waist.
• The kicking team may not contact a member of receiving team on a kickoff until the ball has traveled 10 yards, or unless a member of the receiving team initiates the contact.
• Jerseys of the visiting team must be white in color, and home jerseys are restricted in the use of white for varsity competition. This was a rule change made in 2007 for implementation this season.
The pass possession rule now mirrors that of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Only one foot is necessary to remain inbounds while maintaining possession, but the referee’s judgment is now rendered moot as to whether or not the receiver would have come down inbounds. The new blocking rules will modify any contact initiated by the offense below the waist. And the kickoff rules will make a drastic change in the amount of contact on onside kickoffs.
The change related to a helmet coming off that necessitates a player’s removal from the game for at least one play is also a situation that could alter a team’s offensive or defensive play calling for a possible drive.
All the rules, save for the uniform specification and pass possession changes, are being imposed with player safety as their objective. Pay attention during the upcoming season if any or several of them play a pivotal role in a crucial situation for the Rams.