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Like many of you I was enjoying some Thursday Night NFL last night and this play peaked my interest.  The NFL has numerous rules dealing with hitting the QB and when a pass is truly a pass or simply incomplete.  Many of these are intended to protect the quarterback.  However, this play I am not sure I have ever seen before.   Before we look at the play from the actual game, lets discuss the rule and case in question.


Quarterback A1 drops back to pass and is under a heavy rush. A1 is hit and the ball drops to the ground and B1 recovers. At the instant A1 was hit and lost possession, his passing arm was:

(a) moving backward; or
(b) was extended back, but not moving in either direction in relation to the line of scrimmage; or
(c) was moving forward toward the line of scrimmage.

RULING: In (a) and (b), it is a fumble and B gains possession. In (c), since A1’s arm was moving forward toward the line of scrimmage, it is an incomplete forward pass and the ball becomes dead when it hits the ground. (2-18)

Based on this ruling from the casebook now judge the play from Thursday night.  The officials ruled this “incomplete”, would we have ruled it the same, or a fumble?   Don’t miss the fact that the actual pass goes backwards.

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So what do you think?  Is it incomplete or a fumble.  Please put your thought in the comment box.

I will admit, replay on this play makes one heck of a difference.  It would be a very difficult call at the NFHS level without any replay.

Finally, best of luck to all the crews working today as we are getting deeper into the playoff season.  Enjoy the day and savor the experience!

Survey Results

Video #1




Video #2


I want to begin by apologizing to everyone for missing a Saturday and then almost missing another.  I was out of state most of the previous week and then spent that Saturday (10/13) working a first round 9-man game in ND.  This week was also busy with my crew working another game this past weekend.  I was unable to make it so I am finally back at my computer and able to finish my blog post this week.  So my apologies… thanks for your patience.

I am sharing a couple clips this week from my own work at Oakes on 10/13.  I want to thank Coach Dobitz for sharing this video, as it is a wonderful way to improve and get better.  In both of the clips you will see what I believed were horsecollar tackles.  Do you agree or not?  Make sure to take the survey at the end.  Also make sure to scroll the poll to the bottom to click on DONE, this will record your vote.

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Create your own user feedback survey

I wish to begin by thanking Ryne for this blog idea.  It is often something that gets overlooked but its importance is without measure, PREGAME ROUTINE.  Despite the season being on the verge of post-season play it is not time to stop working on our pre-game routines.  When we take time to get our equipment, our minds, and our crews ready we will perform better each Friday or Saturday.  So here is some advice on pre-game.

After a season getting our equipment ready is probably almost a habit.  But, let me assert this is the time for the end of season order.  I always admired Mr. Dave Carlsrud during his time at the NDHSAA for many reasons.  One that always stuck in my mind is the importance to look your best when we enter the field.  He would preach about many things but one that I took to heart in the post-season is a new hat.  After a season of sweat, rain, sun, and maybe even snow, get that fresh hat out for these important games.  In addition this is time to make sure all your equipment is clean and ready for the post season.  Personally, I work on this on Sunday and Monday so I have time to get everything ready before Friday night.

Our Mind
What are you doing, during the week, to keep your mind sharp and review?  Recently moving to a new community, a much larger community, I have found it wonderful that the association here has Wednesday night rules discussions.  If these are available take part and engage.  You don’t have to be a football official long to understand that the rules of our game are complex.  If you are not able to have such a group close to you, I encourage you to take part in the new online forum at https://www.mibtmedia.com/index.html put on by Tim Kiefer and Bill LeMonnier.  I had the opportunity to be a listener once this year and also a contributor.  Both were wonderful opportunities and for those of us that are challenged by distance or time this

provides a wonderful way to get engaged.  Their clinics are also Wednesday nights at 8:30pm CST.

The Crew
The last part is the crew and this is the part that I have asked Ryne to help me with this week.  He shared a list of items his crew will review before a game to ensure they are ready before the big game.  This is a wonderful guide and I wish to thank Ryne again for sharing his knowledge and experience with us.

With a new guy on the crew we are going to talk mechanics – punts, free kick, scrimmage kicks, pass plays – talk about spotting the ball on yard lines on change of possession/punts, making sure to remind officials about killing the clock when necessary, and reporting fouls with complete information.

With guys that I have worked with often, we review mechanics but then spend time talking about the teams that are playing, any video we were able to find in the previous weeks, funky formations/things to know about the teams, etc. We will also review the quiz of the week or use the NFHS app for a 10 question quiz on the way to the field.

As crews have worked together longer, pregame can get more detailed in their pregame, talking about on certain plays (sweep to opposite side of where the R is lined up for instance) who is watching what block, etc. What are different positions looking at on punts or change of possession, interceptions, etc.

All of these are outstanding items to work on and I really like how Ryne has broken them out by experience of the crew.  Most veteran officials know that a pre-game with a new official is different than when you have a room of more seasoned officials.  It does not, however, remove the need to have a good pre-game no matter what experience levels are in the locker room.  As in his examples the complexity and depth of the pre-game discussions just change and these make us all better.

Again, I wish to thank Ryne and those of you sharing your thoughts on the blog comments or privately to me.  Your feedback is wonderful and helps me make this blog better.  I am hoping for some seasonal weather this coming week as 9-man playoffs begin here in ND.  Good luck everyone and talk to you next week.


Kicks, and the kicking game in general, are commonly referred to “where all the crazy stuff happens”.  We often see blocked punts, muffs, and fumbles that just compound the many other infractions that commonly arise during these downs.   On this weekend’s Saturday Morning Stripes I wanted to focus in on when the R team can recover a punt, and then also advance it.  It is something we don’t see often but on blustery windy nights our crew felt a great review.

Lets refresh a few fundamentals:
A kick ends – 2-42.2  A kick ends when a player gains possession or when the ball becomes dead while not in player possession.
The neutral zone – 2-28-1 The neutral zone is the space between the two free-kick lines during a free-kick down and between the two scrimmage lines during a scrimmage down. For a free-kick down, the neutral zone is 10 yards wide and for a scrimmage down it is as wide as the length of the football. It is established when the ball is marked ready for play.
*Now keep both of these in mind as I share these scenarios.

steve-gleason-afc7b863a76f5be4Scenario 1
Team K kicks a scrimmage kick at the K45, which untouched passes the neutral zone.  R7 muffs the punt at the R40 resulting in the ball rolling to the K49where K55 recovers and advances to the R30.
In this instance remember that K may recover this muffed punt, however since the ball is beyond the neutral zone they may not advance it.  This comment can be found in the case book COMMENT: The right of the kickers to advance their recovered scrimmage kick depends entirely upon whether the kick is recovered in, behind or beyond the neutral zone…..If the recovery is beyond the neutral zone, K may recover, but may not advance.

We have seen these before where a crew misses this part of the rule and lets the recovering K team advance for a TD.  Be confident on these and make sure to kill the play once the ball is secured by K.

Scenario 2
A scrimmage kick by K1 is partially blocked in the neutral zone by R1. The kick goes beyond the neutral zone where R2 muffs it back behind the neutral zone. K2 recovers behind the neutral zone and advances across R’s goal line. Ruling?
First, the touching by R does not affect the kick, Rule 6-2-6, so we can ignore that.  The muff would be something we are familiar with, but different than in Scenario 1 the ball rolls back behind the neutral zone.  The recovery by K, in this instance is NOT killed when they secure it.  The K player can now advance and ultimately, as stated in the scenario, he can gain yards, make a first down, or even score a touchdown.
**Correction on this one…THANK YOU, Scott…The muff by R causes the downs to start over for K.  So even though K did not make the line to gain, that does not matter as a new set of downs is provided.  Same as if the muff happened downfield.
The second part of the comment from the casebook is important.. Whether the kick went beyond the neutral zone and then ­rebounded behind it is of no consequence. The spot of recovery is the only factor. If the recovery is in or behind the neutral zone, K may advance.


Now lets add some spice to this discussion as we did last night on the way to the game.  Scenario 3 – It is 4th and 10 at the K30 when K1 kicks a scrimmage kick. The kick goes beyond the neutral zone where:
a. high winds blow the kick back behind the neutral zone, where it strikes the ground at the K28.  K55 picks up the ball and runs to the K39 . Ruling?
b. the kick strikes the ground at the K45 where it strikes the ground and rebounds untouched to the K28.  K55 picks up the ball and runs to the K39.  Ruling?

Since it is all about the position of the ball both of these are legal, yet K would not have made the line to gain in either instance and turned the ball over on downs.  Do you agree?

We can add a hyper level of sophistication to these scenarios by adding in Kick Catching Interference 6-5-5 and First Touching 2-12-2.  But, I may leave that for another day!

Hope you have a great week!

(Pam Wagner/CHSAANow.com)

If you are working games above 40N Latitude – you better be getting your cold gear out!


You Make the Call

I snagged a clip from a recent game in the Bis/Man area.  Going to have you look at this short clip and “You Make the Call”.  Watch B11 and A54 in the middle of the line.

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Is this holding

If this was holding for you, how are you classifying it?
1. Takedown –   Did the holder drag the other to the ground or commonly bring a hard charging rusher to the ground on top of the holder by grasping the jersey on the inside of the two.
2. Tackle – simple – did they grasp the opponent and tackle them.
3. Hook and Restrict – was the holder hooking the opponent in a way that restricted movement.  Notice here the hook is not the only concern, there must be a restriction.
4. Jersey Stretch – Easy to see but again was the stretch a restriction.  Often this is the easiest to see and is called.
5. Twist and Turn – was the opponent twisted by the blocker and turned away from their intended path.  You see this often on a counter or pulling line play.

How are you classifying it?







Hook & Restrict


Jersey Stretch


Twist & Turn



 ** I do wish to share a bit a great news this week.  Tim Kiefer from MIBTOnline asked me to join in his online clinic this past night.  I would encourage you to take a look at his site and join in the online experience.  It runs for an hour each Wednesday at 8:30pm central.  Great way to get in some video review even when we are in the vast expanses of North Dakota.  


He Lost His Lid

Have you ever seen an athlete lose his helmet during a down?  Do you know what to do?

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*I wish to give credit to Todd Allen and the AAHSO ast his clip is just a short segment from their larger weekly video*

Lets make sure we are aware of the rules as they apply to this situation.  In the video the official kills the play, but was this correct by rule?  Rule 4.2.2 – The ball becomes dead and the down is ended: (park K) When the helmet comes completely off the runner.  Key word here is runner.  So in this instance, unless he felt something was terrible wrong and the player was not safe, this play should have continued.  If we think about that just a bit you can understand the rule.  If any player was allowed to kill the play if their helmet came off, every long run for a touchdown would probably have a helmet rolling on the ground.  None of us would want that.

However, the actions of both A63 and B55 could be illegal.  This will take us on a small adventure in the rule book as it depends on who lost their helmet, what they did after they lost their helmet, and if any other player wearing a helmet interacted with them.  This may sound confusing but lets look in the good book.

Rule 9.4.3 – Illegal Personal Contact – No player or non-player shall: (part I) Initiate contact with an opposing player whose helmet has come completely off.  So are the actions by A63 illegal?  One may have to determine if they felt A63 knew his helmet was off.  Was he able to see the helmet off?  Did he continue interacting with B55 well after it should have been obvious that his helmet was off?  All these would be factors in determining if A was committing an illegal act.  The penalty for such a foul is 15 yards.

How about B….

If a player, that has lost his helmet, continues to participate in action this is a foul under Rule 9.6.4 – Illegal Participation – It is illegal participation: (part g) For a player whose helmet comes completely off during a down to continue to participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged.  Be mindful what is immediate action and when does that end.  A and B in this instance are engaged and blocking.  Immediate action for B (9.6.4) would seem to extend to the initial block and then breaking away from it.  Once the block is disengaged does player B continue to participate?  I know the video cuts away quickly, however it would appear that B55 is continuing on toward the QB and attempting to block the pass.  I would argue that we should see a clear separation of this action before calling a foul.  In my view his actions would be illegal and the penalty for this is again 15 yards.  In addition since his helmet came off he also must not participate in the next down.

Rule 9.6.4 gives player B the allowance of immediate action, while rule 9.4.3 does not.  In this instance I feel both players should be afforded a small amount of time to realize a player has lost his helmet, finish an action, and come to a point where they can reset.  I am just thinking players such as A63 and B55 may keep grasping each other and moving even while the players helmet was off, while they regained their footing or came to a stop.  I think we can afford them that time.

Could this be a flag on both A & B, I do believe in this instance it could be.  But, then what do we do? Obviously, we don’t kill the play as was done in this clip.  B55 is not a runner so the play continues.  If you toss a flag on B55, does that flag cover both players?  Are you going to have to chuck your nice clean hat?  You do have the option of two fouls so it may have to get dirty.  I realize the penalties would be offsetting so we may think just keep the flags in our pockets.  I feel flagging this is a good teaching opportunity for the kids.  Tossing the flag and maybe a hat ensures that we are killing the play when it is over to allow for player B55 to be removed.

I hope you enjoyed this clip.  Do you realize the regular season is about 1/2 over!  Football goes by way to quickly.

flag-football-crewDo you remember being a rookie official?  How excited you were to get that first package from Honig’s, the all weather everything box.  The first game, which was probably a JH or JV game of some sort.  Having to learn that officiating was more than just rule knowledge.  You had to have that uncomfortable feeling the first time you were on the field, as none of us really knew  where we were supposed to be before, during, or after a snap.   Then the equipment, is the flag on the right or left.? Do I put it in my pocket or waist?   What is this down indicator thing?  And, for me as a past basketball official getting accustomed to NOT having your whistle in your mouth all the time.

Do you remember being a rookie?

Our crew had the pleasure of working with a new official last night as a fill in to one of our regular crew members.  For the sake of his privacy I will call him “Rookie”, but I say this with all respect as he did a good job for a rookie.  On the way to our game I had the opportunity to ride along with the rookie and pre-game.  He excitedly asked questions as we covered procedural and position information for various formations and portions of the game.  Along the way I thought to myself, “Do I remember what it was like to be a rookie?  That was so many years ago.”  As a veteran official, on a veteran crew, I maybe take many things for granted as they are just habit now.  I am not thinking about hand signals, pre-snap routines, and clock stoppage scenarios as we were on our journey to that evenings contest.  But, the experience of talking through them was good for me.  It was good for me to help a new official, and also remember how difficult it can be, to be the rookie.

We all know that the number of officials is dwindling.  What are we doing to nurture, teach, and guide new officials?  So many are probably 2-3 weeks into a JH or JV season.  Are we coaching them up or just dang thankful they are working those jobs so we don’t have to.  As a part of the “brotherhood” we have a responsibility to be there to coach up these young officials so when they do make the jump to Friday Night Lights they are ready.  I do believe we have a responsibility to help them.

On the field we need to support our new officials.  We all know, from experience, the game can move very quickly the first few games you work on a Friday night.  Heck, even after a year or two I remember situations or plays that made me pause.  Veteran officials help out our rookies by helping them process.  Talk though situations with clarity and take the extra 20 seconds on the field to help our rookies process a tough call.  Don’t you remember the first kick, muff, catch-maybe, fumble-not sure, out of bounds in your career.  Things move awfully fast and talking it through can help that new covering official process what maybe they did not call correctly.  Rookies will do many things really well, again well done to our “rookie”, but they also can make mistakes.  How are we coaching them up on the the field?  Veterans do you remember the official that supported you, coached you privately, and nurtured you while the game was being played?  I am sure you do.  I am sure you also remember the “veteran” official that criticized you surrounded by players, coaches, and fans.. how did that make you feel.  Lets do our best to address the important stuff on the field professionally and privately as possible.  Then keep the deep coaching to times where it can be done in private.

Do you remember being a rookie?  Those were wonderful years and I know I made a ton of mistakes.  I remember my first inadvertent whistle, in Hankinson my 2nd year, like it happened yesterday.  I got chewed out, and deserved it.  My crew helped me, supported me, apologized with me, and coached me up after the game.  I respect TS (white hat) and PS (HL at that time) for helping me in a positive way.  They helped me grow and get better.

I hope this post helps you grown and get better.  Keep sending your questions, videos, and game situations to me at jeff.fastnacht@gmail.com  I love to have some real situations to discuss on Saturday mornings.

capture**On a lighter note I received a wonderful email from Tim Kiefer last week who is the producer/director/founder of MIBTmedia.comOfficiallySpeaking.com   You will probably recognize him from his work with Bill LeMonnier on his DVD’s each year.  I encourage you to go to MIBTmedia.com as they have built a virtual training association that is broadcast every Wednesday night at 8:30pm central time.  This weeks episode has a small part that deals with a blind side block.  It is a great follow up to our discussion last week.  I am also very excited as Tim as asked if I would join in a broadcast.   I will let you know more if, and when, it happens.

hqdefaultI want to share with you a video that I received this week from Ben Birkemeyer.  Take a look at the video and lets discuss if the block at ?? is legal or illegal.  *YOU MAKE THE CALL*

* The action is at the :08 second mark

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Legal or illegal?

Was the B player a defenseless player?  A defenseless player is ART. 2.32.16 . . . A defenseless player is a player who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury. A player who initiates contact against a defenseless player is responsible for making legal contact. When in question, a player is defenseless. Examples include, A player who receives a blindside block with forceful contact not initiated with open hands.

Was this a blind side block?  A blindside block is ART. 2.3.10 . . . A blindside block is a block against an opponent other than the runner, who does not see the blocker approaching.

I am going to begin this discussion by stating that I believe this is the block that the NFHS is wanting us to get out of the game by defining the B player as defenseless.  One may argue that he saw the block coming, maybe, just for a millisecond before he was hit.  I also put the responsibility on the A player to initiate this block with his hands.  By simply using his hands this block is without question legal.  So I say “Illegal”

If you agree this is illegal the penalty is 15 yards from the spot of the foul, 9-4-3.

Who is watching this action on the field.  Should this be the wing or BJ, or both?  As a crew are we discussing these long players to know who is watching the lead blocks and also cleaning up after the runner.  These long players are often times for UNR type fouls.

Thank you to Ben for sharing this video.  I would love to hear your views on this play.





At our rules clinic this week Jim noted an emphasis this year in ND to clean up blocks below the waist in the free blocking zone and ensure crew consistency.  I just had a sneaky suspicion that I had written abut this previously so I dug up this old post from 2016.  I am including it as printed in 2016 with a few notes (in red).


Happy weekend everyone. Hope you had a great first week and are getting in the groove for another outstanding year. Personally, my crew heads out for the first time tonight (8/26) for HS and again on Saturday for a college game – so I am pumped!

This week I want to review a video provided to me by Mr. Travis Martin. This one was discussed at the Fargo workshop and Travis thought it would be a good one for Saturday Morning Stripes. He was right. Thanks Travis!

Blocking below the waist is the focus of the post today. Lets begin by reviewing the rules in question:

What is blocking below the waist?
ART. 2-3-7 . . . Blocking below the waist is making initial contact below the waist from the front or side against an opponent other than a runner. Contact with an opponent’s hand(s) below the waist that continues into the body below the waist is considered blocking below the waist. Blocking below the waist applies only when the opponent has one or both feet on the ground.
So blocking below the waist can be legal if done at the right time and in the right way. Critical is your knowledge of the free blocking zone and where both A and B players involved in a block were at, at the snap.
So what is the free blocking zone and how long does it exist?
ART. 2-17-1 . . . The free-blocking zone is a rectangular area extending laterally 4 yards either side of the spot of the snap and 3 yards behind each line of scrimmage. A player is in the free-blocking zone when any part of his body is in the zone at the snap.  See the diagram.. At our workshop the discussion surrounded an interpretation this year in ND to help clarify the zone.  Often it can be difficult to determine where 4 yards ends on either side of the ball.  So to simplify the administration of the rule the guide was this:
11 Man – Regular Alignment (not tight) – The zone extends from Tackle to Tackle.  Ends are NOT in the free blocking zone.
11 Man – TIGHT (goal line type formation) – The zone would extend from End to End.

ART. 2-17-4 . . . The free-blocking zone disintegrates and the exception for a player to block below the waist and/or the exception for an offensive lineman to block in the back is not to continue after the ball has left the zone.
In a normal QB formation this gives a lineman time to reach or even move, before executing the block, as so long as the ball is still within the zone at the time of contact.  However, in a shotgun formation the feeling is that the contact must be made immediately at the snap.  SNAP – BLOCK!  If the player stands, or hesitates in the least, in a shotgun formation this action is illegal.

Now lets add some additional rules to the equation as in my original post I left out an important element.  That is ART. 2-17-2… Blocking below the waist is permitted in the free-blocking zone when the following conditions are met:  a. All players involved in the blocking are on the line of scrimmage and in the zone at the snap.  *This means that both the A & B players have to be within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap.*  And b. The contact is in the zone.  In the diagram all of the A players are in the zone and on the line of scrimmage.  The B players B1-B4 are in the zone and on the line of scrimmage at the snap.  Is B5 in the zone?  Yes.  However, is that player on the line of scrimmage?  Rule 2-25-3 is the key: A defensive player is on the line of scrimmage when he is within 1 yard of his scrimmage at the snap.  In my view that player has to have a foot or hand, on the ground, within that 1 yard area.  Would you agree?

Now lets take a look at Travis’ video. Pay particular attention to the LG-C-RG.

Left Guard – was this block below the waist? Was the ball still in the zone to make it legal? I would say Yes. However, we may question a chop on this. But, as Travis said in his email that may be another discussion.
Center – He stays high.. Not much to worry about there.
Right Guard – was this block below the waist? Yes but, there is no way the ball was still in the zone.  So this action by the RG should be flagged.  Particularly in shotgun situations we always advise coaches and players that this type of block has to be immediate. If a blocker stands and then moves to make the block – ILLEGAL.

As a crew take a look at this and discuss it. Blocking below the waist is not a difficult action to see but we must know where the ball is when the action occurs. The formation can help us key in to know how quickly the block must take place. But, also discuss other formations, what about an option type play. If the QB ran down the line in a delayed hand-off or option play would lineman get extra time to block below the waist?

I hope you enjoyed this post and again a HUGE THANK YOU to Travis for the video.

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