Kicking the ball

Carthage’s Pedro Garcia (36) kicks off at the start of the Bulldogs’ game against Jacksonville in the Tomato Bowl. It seems like there is a flag thrown for a penalty whenever the ball is kicked.

The high school football season is only a couple weeks old and yet the kicking game has shown its importance with plays affecting the outcomes of games. Here are some kicking situations to test your rules knowledge.

Play One: On a kickoff, the kicker kicks a high short “pooch” kick that is caught by No. 35 at the 30-yard line. While the kick is in the air, his teammate No. 20 waves his hand above his shoulder signaling for a fair catch. After catching the kicked football, No. 35 takes off running for 70 yards. What is the result of this play?

Answer: This is a foul for delay of game. When one player signals for a fair catch, this signal applies to his entire team, telling the kicking team that there will be no return. The penalty is 5 yards from the spot where the kick was caught.

Play Two: On fourth down, the offense lines up to punt from its own 25-yard line. The punt is high and fairly short. The receiver is in position to catch the football at his own 40-yard line. The moment he catches the ball, the tackler hits him chest high. What is the result of this play?

Answer: This is a foul for kick-catch interference. The penalty is 15 yards from the spot of the foul. While immediately hitting the receiver used to be legal, the receiver now must be given a 1-yard cushion to catch the football.

Play Three: On a punt from its own 40-yard line, the short kick lands at the opponent’s 35-yard line and rolls toward the goal line. Kicking team players surround the ball and one kicking-team player touches the ball. Is the play over or can the receiving team attempt to pick up and advance the football?

Answer: Touching the rolling football does not kill the play. The kicking team must pick up and possess the football or the football come to a complete stop and no one attempt to pick it up for the covering official to whistle the end of the play.

Play Four: On fourth-down-and-5 yards to go from the 50-yard line, the offense lines up in punt formation. The “punter” takes the snap and runs to his right. He crosses the line of scrimmage and, seeing that he is about to be tackled short of the first down, kicks the football at the 48-yard line. The kicked football rolls out of bounds at the 20-yard line. What is the result of this play?

Answer: This is an illegal kick. The officials will whistle the play dead when the ball is kicked. The penalty is 5 yards from the line of scrimmage and loss of down. It will be first-and-10 for the opponents at the 45-yard line.

Grace is a member of the North Texas Chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Officials. Email your rules questions to him at lee@955espn.com. Listen to his “You Make the Call” weekdays at 9:57 a.m. and 3:27 p.m. on 95.5 FM ESPN.

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