False start flag throw by wing

What is a False Start in High School Football?

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Dallas Cowboys linemen would come to the line in a two-point stance, then stand straight up and go down to a three-point stance. This was called the “Landry Shift”. The Cowboys linemen would perform the same motion all game; regardless of game time, down, or distance.

Rule 7-1-7 states it is a false start if:

a) a shift or feigned charge simulates action at the snap,

b) any act is clearly intended to cause B to encroach, and

c) any A player on his line between the snapper and the player on the end of his line, after having placed a hand(s) on or near the ground, moves his hand(s) or makes any quick movement.

What may a false start look like?

On a short-yardage play, after employing a “normal” shift for multiple snaps, offensive players may attempt to cause the defense to foul by replicating the Landry Shift (or something similar like slapping their thigh pads or jerking their hands to the ground).

Any deviation from the offense’s habitual behavior that simulates a snap should be penalized. This includes a receiver who abruptly straightens to move to another position or a quarterback who employs uncharacteristic head bobs or hand chucks.

This is a fourth down play and the quarterback abruptly pulls away from the center. This should be flagged as a false start.

In this play, the QB chucks his hands and the defense jumps into the neutral zone. In my judgment, this is a false start. The quarterback had not previously aggressively chucked his hands in this manner. Since both wings threw a flag, they must come together to discuss their flags. A false start on the quarterback is the referee’s decision, not the wings’, so if he doesn’t throw a flag, the wings’ flag for encroachment will stand.

During this try from the B-3, five Team A players shift from the right to the left of the formation. Does this shift simulate a snap? The linesman ruled the shift was legal and flagged Team B for encroachment.

What can linemen legally do?

Linemen are allowed to move their bodies to look back at the quarterback or point to a defensive player as long as they don’t simulate a snap. If a coach complains about an offensive player’s movement, you can say, “I saw that movement. The offensive player did not simulate a snap.” Note, any lineman who has a player outside him on the line cannot remove his hand from the ground.

What about simultaneous player movement?

If an A player (false start) and B player (encroachment) move “simultaneously,” we can offset the fouls if it’s not clear which player moved first (2001 Interpretation, Sit 16). In most cases, one foul will be penalized, either the false start or the encroachment. If both wings have a flag, the wings should hustle to the middle of the field and agree on which action occurred first before reporting to the referee.

If both wings toss a flag, they should not signal to the referee without first having the conversation. It doesn’t look good if one wing gives the “false start” signal and the other gives the “encroachment” signal. Rule 7-1-8 states if a false start causes B to encroach, only the false start is penalized.

In this video, we can see the umpire and line judge throw flags. We can’t see if the linesman throws a flag. At the very end of the play, the line judge starts to give the false start signal. There are a few problems here. If there is more than one flag, the officials must come together to discuss their flags before reporting to the referee. Also, the line judge should only rule on his side of the field. He should not throw a flag for the right tackle’s movement. As a referee, I’d assume the line judge was throwing a flag for the defender’s movement on his side. A savvy head coach might be confused and frustrated by this crew action.