Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Youth Football: Trick Play

The Driscoll Middle School football team of Corpus Christi, TX became a YouTube sensation when they pulled a trick play in a league title game.

The play has raised lots of questions. Was the play legal and if it was legal was it ethical? Let's debate.

Was it legal? I am not sure what rules govern middle school football in Texas, but I know that Texas High Schools follow NCAA Football rules. The relevant rules of snapping a ball are listed below.

Rule 2-23 / Definitions FR-55 SECTION 23. 
Snapping the Ball ARTICLE 1. 
a. Legally snapping the ball (a snap) is handing or passing it backward from its position on the ground with a quick and continuous motion of the hand or hands, the ball actually leaving the hand or hands in this motion (Rule 4-1-4). 
b.The snap starts when the ball is moved legally and ends when the ball leaves the snapper’s hands (A.R. 7-1-5-I-II). 
d.While resting on the ground and before the snap, the long axis of the ball must be at right angles to the scrimmage line (Rule 7-1-3-a-1). 
e.Unless moved in a backward direction, the movement of the ball does not start a legal snap. It is not a legal snap if the ball is first moved forward or lifted. 
g.The snap need not be between the snapper’s legs; but to be legal, it must be a quick and continuous backward motion. 

Notice that in clause (g), the snap does NOT need to go between the legs. There were many uninformed people commenting on YouTube and blogs that not snapping the ball between the legs made the play illegal. I would contest that clause (e) was violated and should have resulted in a 5 yard penalty against the offensive team. The ball is clearly lifted upward before it is moved backward. An initial backwards motion would have caused the defensive line to react.

Was it ethical?

Cindy Boren of the Washington Post equated the play to the famed fumblerooski play. In that play the ball was legally snapped and the quarterback fumbled the ball on purpose for a lineman to pick up. They did this play at great risk of losing the fumble. She also equates the play to Statue of Liberty play which is no more than a play action pass play. These plays were deceptive, but did not cross the line of fair sportsmanship.

I think that the Driscoll play crossed the line of fair and decent play. 

The Main Point

Pull this play on the college or Pro level and I say great, but on the middle school level this was a bit bush league.

My son's baseball team used to practice a fake pick off play where the pitcher would spin and then fake a throw to second base. The two infielders and the centerfielder would act as if that the ball was errantly thrown into outfield. This deception would confuse the runner who would sometimes run to third only to be thrown out rather easily by the pitcher who still had the ball. One day, my son's team pull this play off in a game and fooled a 10 year old runner. I heard a parent from the other team say something very poignant to our coach, "Hey coach, I thought you and your organization played with class...until today. Are you proud you tricked a 10 year old kid?"

I agree, these plays are legal but when conducted against young kids they are a bit classless.

The Driscoll play may have been legal if the refs deemed that the ball moved backwards before it moved upwards and the fake pick off play is legal, but coaches do you really want to win that way? I guess so.


  1. The snap may have been going back slightly as it went up, but regardless, it is a "zero class" play.

    I would be embarrassed and offended if any team my children play on resorted to such unsportsmanlike methods to win a game.

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