It's In The Rules: Illegal Blocking Below the Waist

7:15 PM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
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In high school football, there are very specific rules regarding the time and circumstances when blocking below the waist is legal. There continues to be problems with game officials not enforcing these restrictions on who can block, who can be blocked and where/when these blocks can occur. In order for a block below the waist to be legal, the following criteria must be met:
1. Both players must be lined up in the free-blocking zone at the snap and on the line of scrimmage. The free-blocking zone is defined as 3 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage and 4 yards either side of the ball.
2. The contact/block must occur in the free-blocking zone.
3. The ball must still be in the free-blocking zone.
The NFHS Football Rules Committee was to emphasize several examples where it is important to enforce this rule. When a team is lined up in shotgun formation, the restrictions on blocking below the waist begin the moment that the ball leaves the free-blocking zone. Because a shotgun quarterback is usually positioned more than 3 yards behind the line at the snap, when the ball is snapped the ball very quickly leaves the zone and therefore, the only legal blocks below the waist have to be initiated simultaneously with the snap.
Another common example of an illegal block below the waist is when running backs, who line up in the backfield are "cut" by defenders on sweeps or on roll-out passes. This is clearly a violation of the blocking-below-the-waist rule because it occurs by a players who was not originally on the line of scrimmage and occurs outside the free-blocking zone.
Remember, players on the line of scrimmage in the free-blocking zone at the time of the snap can legally block below the waist, but only if the free blocking zone still exists because the ball has not left the zone. The rule applies equally to the offense and the defense.

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