Ready for kickoff: Rule changes for the 2023 North Carolina high school football season

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – High school football has always been a sport marked by its rules and regulations, ensuring fair play and safety for all players on the field. However, these rules are not set in stone; they evolve over time to adapt to the changing dynamics of the game. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) announced earlier this year a series of rule changes that will impact the way the game is played.

High school football players participating in the Jack Shaner Football Jamboree at Northwood high school had a chance to hear about the new rule changes from a referee before game action started.

New rule changes for 2023 North Carolina high school football season include dress code flexibility, penalty spot adjustments, and clarifications on intentional grounding and player interactions.

Uniform Adornments: Embracing Minimalism

Section: Rule 1-5-3a(5)a

Football uniforms are an essential aspect of the game, and uniform regulations help maintain a level playing field. The latest rule change regarding uniform adornments pertains to towels. Players are now allowed to wear a single moisture-absorbing solid-colored towel, featuring minimal manufacturer’s and school logos. The logos cannot exceed 2¼ square inches and must not surpass 2¼ inches in any dimension. Towels do not have to be the same solid color for each player. This change reflects a move towards simplicity while still allowing for personal expression within the bounds of the game.

In Bounds or Out? Clarifying Player Positioning

Section: Rule 2-29-1

Player positioning on the field is crucial in determining the outcome of plays. The revised rule clarifies the status of a player who has not established any part of their body inbounds. In such cases, when a player intentionally touches the ball after being out of bounds, the ball is deemed dead. This change emphasizes the importance of staying inbounds and accurate ball handling.

Defenseless Receivers: Reevaluating Vulnerability

Section: Rule 2-32-16d

Player safety is paramount, and rules surrounding defenseless players aim to protect players from dangerous hits. The new changes address situations where a receiver is considered defenseless. The rule now states that even if the contact by the opponent is forceful, the receiver is not defenseless if the contact is initiated with open hands. While the contact might not be deemed defenseless, it might still constitute pass interference, further highlighting the intricate balance between safety and gameplay.

Penalty Enforcement: Understanding the Basic Spot

Section: Rule 10-4, TABLE 10-4 (NEW), 10-6 (DELETED)

Penalty enforcement is a critical aspect of the game, determining yardage and positioning. The revised rule introduces a more comprehensive understanding of the “basic spot,” which serves as a reference point for enforcement. The rule now specifies scenarios where fouls occur behind or beyond the line of scrimmage and their corresponding basic spots. This change ensures a clearer approach to penalty enforcement, enhancing transparency and consistency.

Running Play Penalties: Spot of the Foul Matters

Sections: Rule 10-4-2d, 10-4-2e, 10-4-2f, 10-4-4d, 10-4-5e, 10-4-5f

Running plays are at the heart of football, and penalties during these plays can significantly impact the game’s dynamics. The revised rules provide specific penalty enforcement guidelines based on the location of the foul and the end of the run or related run. Whether a foul occurs behind or beyond the line of scrimmage, or the end of the run, the rules now clarify the basic spot for enforcement. These changes ensure a more precise handling of running play penalties, promoting fairness and accuracy.

Six-Player Football: Handing the Ball Forward

Section: SIX-PLAYER – RULE 7g (NEW)

Six-player football, a variant of the sport, also experiences rule changes to enhance its dynamics. The newly introduced rule permits direct forward handoffs during scrimmage downs, provided both players are within or behind the neutral zone, except when handing off to the snapper. This change introduces flexibility to the game and accommodates the unique aspects of six-player football.

Stay Informed

To stay updated on the latest rule changes and their implications, visit the official NFHS website at A PDF of the 2023 rule changes is located here.

Summary Points from the referee presentation at the Jack Shaner Jamboree
📏 Dress Code: Last year, everyone had to wear the same color towel, with specific colors assigned. This year, any solid color is allowed, avoiding flags or football-like patterns.
🏈 Penalty Spot Changes: Penalties occurring behind the line of scrimmage now lead to the previous spot being revisited. This adjustment affects situations like lineman holding in the backfield.
🛡️ Defensive Player Interaction: Defenders cannot deliver heavy hits to offenseless players who cannot see them coming, promoting player safety.
🏆 Intentional Grounding: Quarterbacks and the initial snap receiver are the only ones allowed to roll out and throw the ball away to avoid intentional grounding.
👄 Mouthpiece Regulation: Pacifier-style mouthpieces with outer loops are illegal; players must remove the loop while wearing the mouthpiece.
🏉 Pushing the Pile: Pushing the quarterback or running back across the line is illegal; jumping into the pile to push is acceptable, but not with motion.
📣 Communication Improvement: Efforts continue to enhance communication between coaches and game management.
👔 Dress Code Reminder: Dress code remains important due to safety concerns.

View Ref goes over rule changes at start of Northwood’s Jack Shaner Football Jamboree – 8.11.23
Changes for 2023 included uniform color adjustments. Penalty spots were moved back, leading to longer distances for first downs. Defensive rules were tightened.

00:03 Changes in high school football for 2023

  • Uniforms no longer require specific colors, only solid colors are allowed.
  • Penalty spot changed to happen behind the line of scrimmage.

00:59 Understanding fouls and yardage in football

  • Fouls result in going back to the previous spot on the field
  • Defensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage result in the offense getting the ball in and running

01:43 A defensive penalty in the end zone results in a safety.

  • The defensive player is dragged down by his face mask, resulting in a penalty.
  • The penalty leads to a marking off of 15 yards on the goal line.

02:33 When both players are going for the ball, hitting the opponent is allowed

  • If both players are focused on the ball, it is acceptable to make contact with the opponent
  • Intentional grounding is allowed if the quarterback throws the ball back to the line of scrimmage

03:15 Only the quarterback or the first person who receives a snap can roll out and throw the ball out of bounds.

  • If anyone else attempts to throw the ball out of bounds, it is considered intentional grounding.
  • The person receiving the initial snap is the only one allowed to possess the ball.

04:05 Illegal actions involving the round clip on the outside of mouthpieces.

  • If a player comes in the game with it, they will be sent out.
  • Players can keep the mouthpiece but must remove the round clip.

04:53 High school football pros and cons

  • High school football allows players to push the pile and be more physical in the game
  • Certain actions, like pushing the quarterback, can be illegal and result in a penalty
  • Coaches are constantly striving to improve communication, game management, and sportsmanship
  • Dress code and media coverage are also important aspects to consider

05:38 The team will start on offense from the 40-yard line and play 10 downs on offense and defense, moving the ball five yards.

  • The dress code should be followed as per the guidelines.
  • Safety issues regarding the field were discussed.