NFHS adds ‘targeting’ rule to high school football

North Haven running Back Mke Montano tries to evade the tacke Attempt by New Canaan defensive back Mike DiCosmo

North Haven running Back Mke Montano tries to evade the tackle attempt by New Canaan defensive back Mike DiCosmo during last year’s Class L semifinals (a legal tackle). Targeting, or “Initiating contact above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders,” according to the NFHS, is now a 15-yard illegal contact penalty.

In its drive to increase safety in high school football, the National Federation of State High Schools is following the lead of the NCAA by outlawing targeting beginning in the 2014 season.

Targeting, according to NFHS, is the “act of taking aim and initiating contact to an opponent above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders.”

In other words, anything other than playing the ball on a legal tackle will result in a targeting penalty.

The targeting foul will be treated as illegal contact and the offending team will be penalized 15 yards. Unlike the NCAA, which implemented the rule a year ago, the offending player will not be ejected in high school football.

The NFHS also redefined a defenseless player as a player who, “because of his physical position and focus of concentration is especially vulnerable to injury.”

On kickoffs, the NFHS ruled that the kicking team must have at least four members on each side of the ball, which eliminates stacking players up on one side during an onside kick.

“The Football Rules Committee’s actions this year reinforce a continued emphasis on minimizing risk within all phases of the game,” said Brad Garrett, the chair of the Football Rules Committee and an assistant executive director of the Oregon Schools Activities Association.

New language to other rules include:

Rule 8-5-1: “The accidental touching of a loose ball by a player who was blocked into the ball is ignored and does not constitute a new force,” which means punting teams cannot block receiving teams into a lose ball.

Rule 9-4-3: Roughing the passer fouls now include all illegal personal contact fouls, which results in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.



  1. says

    AWESOME!!!!! Hey do the tackle in 8 man football like they have in Nebraska or Iowa? Better yet the LFL or whatever the Panty and Bra league is because that’s where not only the CIAC but all the governing body’s are taking this Sports. Gone are the days of the pipe hitting go to sleep over the middle Lights Out hit!!!!!!!

  2. UBilly says

    As long as the refs do not make it impossible to play strong, hard hitting, intimidating defense…..

    I do not want targeting hits. But I do want good form, solid hits on receivers and the backs. Don’t take away our defense!
    If an offense is going to use quick passes over the middle, the refs need to let the defense play too, otherwise lets just eliminate some plays from the offensive play books that are “too risky” and could lead to a defenseless receiver potentially getting whacked.

  3. tom cat says

    Officating has gotten so bad in resent years,can you imagine these guys trying to enforce this? It’s going to be disaster.

  4. JON says

    This will be a joke for the Fairfield County officials as they are absolutely terrible!!! Playing a few SCC schools this year we got to experience their officiating which was leaps and bounds better than what we get. Something needs to change as first their horrible judgements were really having an affect on games. The New Haven County crews meet before games to discuss your offense, special plays, formations, etc and then explain themselves and then at least make consistent calls. Themost basic calls are hard enough for these guys to make, now we are going to ask these out of shape guys who are never in the right position or watching what they are supposed to make an accurate judgement?? I dont think so, teams and players will lose out in big spots because of this. NFL doesnt get it right most of the time how are these guys???? There should be an evaluation system for them, especially for the head officials and maybe they can watch a little film or see what teams are doing to help themselves? This way they can improve and maybe have a better chance to make these calls better.

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