Targeting Rule Added to High School Football

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EL DORADO, Kan.- Concussions have been a major issue in football and the rules are changing to try to help. The targeting rule was implemented in college football last season. This year, fans will see the call being made under Friday night lights in high school football games.
This weekend, officials gathered from across the region in the Wichita area for the Jayhawk Conference Officiating Clinic. The officials ranged from the high school level all the way to Division I. They worked scrimmages at Butler and Hutchinson and discussed all aspects of the game. One of the issues they covered was the targeting penalty. The rule is nothing new to the collegiate officials but will add a new aspect to the high school game.

Wichita City League and Jayhawk Conference Supervisor of Officials, Craig Helser said, "I think it's important to understand that because of head injuries and concussions, the game has changed. The way football needs to be played needs to be changed."
Phil Laurie, MIAA Director of Officials, explained the goal in implementing the targeting rule, "We don't want to take contact out of the game of football because it is a contact sport. However, we want to have the coaches teach the players and the players do this, and that is to lower the target zone. As an official, we have four high-risk indicators."

The high-risk indicators are what officials look for to see if a targeting call is warranted.

High-Risk Indicators
-Launch: Player leaves his feet to tackle.
-Thrust: Player thrusts up toward the head or neck region.
-Strike: A player uses arm to intentionally strike head or neck region.
-Crown of the Helmet: Player lowers his head and uses the top of the helmet to hit.

Officials also look for low-risk indicators. These four indicators are what officials look for to see if a hit in question is a clean tackle.

Low-Risk Indicators
-Head Up: The top of the player's helmet does not strike above the shoulders.
-Wrap Up: The defender wraps the player up with his arms to tackle.
-Head to the Side: The player leads with the shoulder when hitting.
-Position Change: Either player's position could change resulting in incidental helmet contact. This is taken into consideration by the officials when making the call.

While the high-risk and low-risk indicators remain the same at every level, there is a distinction to the rule at the high school level.
"There is a target that is just a 15-yard penalty and there is also a target that's flagrant. Flagrant means it's an ejection so there are two types of targets. In college, any targeting foul is an automatic ejection so they're all flagrant. In high school, they're not," explained Helser.

While the rule is complicated, the goal is that if it is implemented successfully, it will help to reduce the types of hits that are likely to lead to head injuries. Laurie said, "I think definitely, it's going to help prevent injuries. The NCAA was very pleased with the first year of the targeting rule."

The rule is complicated and took officials, players, coaches, and fans a while to get acclimated last year in the NCAA. The same is expected to be true for everyone involved with high school football season this year, but it is all done in the name of safety.


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