Bobref Posted November 12, 2019 Share Posted November 12, 2019 As we get deeply into the playoffs, one would think the games would get closer and closer. Close games often mean onside kicks. The high school rules regarding onside kicks differ significantly in some respects from those you see on Saturday and Sunday. Onside kicks are a real challenge to officiate, because there's a lot happening in a very short time and a restricted space. Also, it's usually a critical play in the game. So let's review. An onside kick, like all kickoffs, is considered a "free" kick. For a free kick, the kicking team (K) may place the ball anywhere between the hashes to kickoff. After the ball is whistled ready for play, there are certain formation requirements for K: No K player, other than the player who ultimately kicks the ball, may be more than 5 yds. behind K's free kick line, which usually means they can't be behind the 35 yd. line. The object is to prevent K from getting a big running start, which increases the risk of injury. At the time the ball is kicked, there must be at least 4 K players on each side of the kicker. Doesn't matter where they line up initially, only at the time the ball is kicked. Any K player can catch or recover a free kick and then K gets to keep it, provided it is not kick-catching interference or first touching. More on that later. If a K player catches or recovers the kick, the ball is immediately dead and they cannot advance it. K may legally recover the ball before it goes beyond the receiving team's (R's) free kick line, usually the 50 yd. line, if it is touched first by an R player. Such touching by R is ignored if it is caused by K pushing or blocking R into contact with the ball, of if K muffs the ball into contact with R. Any K player may legally recover a free kick if it has both touched the ground and goes beyond the plane of R's free kick line. These two requirements may be fulfilled in any order. If K touches a kick before it has crossed R's free kick line, and before R has touched it, it is referred to as "first touching." R may take the ball at the spot of first touching, or may choose the result of the play. As before, "first touching" is ignored if it is caused by R pushing K into contact with the ball. The right to take the ball at the spot of first touching can be canceled if there are fouls, but it gets a little complicated to explain here. You'll know if there's first touching because the covering official will drop a beanbag on the yard line where the first touching occurred. Or, at least, he's supposed to. While the free kick is in flight, R is entitled to an unimpeded opportunity to catch the kick. This includes a prohibition against not just contacting R players in position to catch the kick, but obstructing R's path to the ball. This does not apply after R touches the kick while it is in flight. Unlike at other levels, in high school K cannot touch or catch an onside kick on the fly. This is kick catching interference regardless of whether an R player was in position to catch the kick. If K touches or catches an onside kick on the fly, the foul can be enforced several different ways, at the option of R: R may accept the result of the play R may accept an awarded fair catch after 15 yds. enforced from the spot of the foul. The significance of an awarded fair catch is that it allows R to then elect to try a free kick for a field goal. R may accept a 15 yd. penalty from the previous spot and a re-kick. But no one in his right mind is going to elect that, unless it was a "surprise" onside kick, rather than one at the very end of the game by a trailing team. Also unlike at other levels, a "pop-up" kick is illegal. A pop-up kick occurs when the kicker drives the ball immediately into the ground, the ball strikes the ground once, and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee. If K attempts a pop-up kick it is a free kick infraction, the ball is dead immediately, and K is penalized 5 yds. On an onside kick, no member of the kicking team can initiate contact with an R player until the kick has traveled 10 yds., K is eligible to recover the kick, or R initiates a block in the neutral zone. That's a lot to digest. Now picture the back judge and line judge standing on the teams' free kick lines, in the last minute of a close playoff game and trying to run all these things through his mind while the crowd, and coaches, and players, are all going crazy. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
As we get deeply into the playoffs, one would think the games would get closer and closer. Close games often mean onside kicks. The high school rules regarding onside kicks differ significantly in some respects from those you see on Saturday and Sunday. Onside kicks are a real challenge to officiate, because there's a lot happening in a very short time and a restricted space. Also, it's usually a critical play in the game. So let's review.
That's a lot to digest. Now picture the back judge and line judge standing on the teams' free kick lines, in the last minute of a close playoff game and trying to run all these things through his mind while the crowd, and coaches, and players, are all going crazy.
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