Legal Forward Pass

by David Brox, davidbrox@shukc.com

There was a bit of controversy during the Atchison vs Washington game Friday night.  One play in particular got me to buy a NFHS rule book.  I got some information from a number of people and wanted to share my findings.

You will see in the play that Atchison is setup at at what I called the 12 yard line on 4th down.  Wykeen Gill scrambles to the right and appears to cross the line of scrimmage.  I paused it a few times and say that he never really crosses the 10 but is past the 11 meaning he has crossed the line of scrimmage.  As Gill has shown a few times this he year, he was able to scramble back behind the 12 and find an open receiver in the end zone for a TD.

I have watched football for a better part of 3 decades and have always believed that once you cross the line of scrimmage you can not at any point throw the football forward.  In high school at least that is not the case.  I think the better way to describe this situation however is that the rules do not cover this situation specifically.  The officials however interpret the following two rules to make the physical act of crossing the line of scrimmage, retreating back and still legally throwing the ball.

Rule 2-25-1: The line of scrimmage for each team is a vertical plane through the point of the ball nearest the team’s goal line. It is determined when the ball is marked ready for play and remains until the next ready-for-play signal.
ART. 1 . . . It is a legal forward pass, if during a scrimmage down and before team possession has changed, a player of A throws the ball with both feet of the passer in or behind the neutral zone when the ball is released. Only one forward pass may be thrown during the down.
It should be noted that the head of officials in the area did indicate that Atchison should have been flagged for lineman down field but Gill’s actions were legal.

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