Player safety will be the paramount issue for Louisiana high school football officials this season.
Officials will be particularly conscious of unsportsmanlike issues, including defenders lunging into opponents with their heads, making helmet-to-helmet contact and purposely striking unprotected opponents.
That was the main topic of the 2013 rules meeting on Aug. 12 at Lutcher High School. Louisiana High School Athletic Association assistant executive director Keith Alexander showed area officials and football coaches still and video illustrations of what is deemed to be illegal contact.
Alexander, who oversees athletic officials for the LHSAA, told football officials from the Greater New Orleans, River Parishes and Houma-Thibodaux associations to keep sharp eyes out for possible infractions of these rules in particular.
Alexander stressed the importance of players avoiding helmet-to-helmet contact. Penalties for launching into an opponent with the head and striking with a helmet under the face guard will be strictly enforced. Offensive players will be flagged for using their heads on a downfield block, and a ball-carrier purposely running into a tackler head first will be considered an infraction.
The National Federation last year ruled that a player whose helmet comes off during a play must leave the game for one play, except in a penalty situation. One rule change goes further, stating if a player whose helmet comes off continues to participate in a play, it is considered illegal participation and a penalty situation.
Alexander showed a brief film clip of a defensive player losing his helmet on a missed tackle. The helmetless player continued to pursue and tackle the ball carrier. That will no longer be allowed. The reason is the player is vulnerable to a possible concussion.
“And that’s something I want the officials to look for,”Alexander said. “If you see that something is not right with a player who was hit, don't make a diagnosis. Tell the coach that something is not right and ask him to have a medical professional take a look. If the coach does not and allows the player to continue and something happens, it’s the coach’s fault. You did your job.”