While the NFHS Rule book is fairly thick and covers almost anything you can think of, referees are given some freedom in applying certain rules. NFHS rules are used as the base rule book in 48 of our 50 states.
One situation that seems to get some leeway is interfering with communication. In an attempt to gain an unfair advantage some teams when on defense will yell out the offenses teams cadence to confuse and draw the offensive team off-sides. Most of us know that this is a clear violation of the rules. But what happens when the defense is systematically and consistently yelling out in unison during your cadence? They aren’t using your snap count, but they are yelling to disrupt your snap count?
Here is the applicable rule:
ART. 1 . . . No player shall act in an unsportsmanlike manner once the officials
assume authority for the contest. Examples are, but not limited to:
d. Using disconcerting acts or words prior to the snap in an attempt to
interfere with A’s signals or movements.
Here’s a case play:
9.5.1 SITUATION B: B1 calls defensive signals loudly: (a) before A takes its set position; or (b) during the time A1 is giving his cadence count; or (c) while A1 is using audibles. RULING: Legal in (a). In (b) and (c), if in the official’s judgment the action by B1 was for the purpose of disconcerting or hindering A, it is an unsportsmanlike-conduct foul. In this case, the official should sound his whistle before the snap. (9-5-1d)
Another situation arose in one of my games a few seasons ago. We run no-huddle and the opposing team was systematically yelling and saying numbers while I was calling my play in. The referees said as long as the defense was not simulating the cadence, it was alright. I didn’t make a big deal about it. In another game this very same tactic happened and the officials made the other team stop after the very first series. Although clearly unsportsmanlike, the rule book seems to be a bit gray in this area when addressing this tactic.
Since this rule seems to be interpreted by many officials in a variety of ways, we came up with an alternative method of calling plays in nonverbally that we practice and works just fine. It may be something you consider as the season progresses and you are preparing your team to cover every base. Coaching youth football- you never know what you are going to get, so know the rules and prepare for contingencies.
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