High school coaches want targeting rule changed

mhsaa logo, no bkgdBy Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

BELDEN – Targeting is a topic.

And it’s hit Mississippi high school football. Coaches were told about the new rule earlier this month at a coaching clinic. Targeting will be called and a flagrant targeting call is a four-quarter ejection that would extend into the next game.

Coaches immediately wanted to discuss that punishment.

“That talk started that afternoon,” Bruce coach James Ray said.

At Wednesday’s MHSAA District I meeting, Ray brought a proposal that would change the punishment for a flagrant targeting call – not a regular targeting call – to an ejection that would last the remainder of the game, instead of four quarters.

The proposal passed and already passed in another district. Typically, a rule change would have to pass two legislative meetings of the MHSAA in October and February, but executive director Don Hinton wants to make sure it takes effect this season. The executive board meets fairly often Hinton says, the next time on Aug. 13, where he will propose the new punishment.

“The executive board can make that change and we need to make that change on recommendation of the executive director before the season starts,” Hinton said.

“We really need it way before the season starts.”

There are two types of targeting calls: a 15-yarder and a flagrant, which is 15 yards and an ejection.

The four-quarter rule is in place because that’s the amount of time a football player would normally miss for any flagrant foul, such as fighting.

At the college and pro levels, flagrant flags are able to be reviewed and many times overturned. High school officials don’t have that chance.

“The thing that we’re at a disadvantage in high school is it happens in a split second and they don’t have a chance to replay it,” New Albany coach Ron Price said. “It happens so fast on Friday night.”

Officials have been told to only call flagrant targeting if it is 100 percent clear. Amory coach Ben Ashley even mentioned that he wouldn’t mind seeing the first time a player was flagged for flagrant targeting to be a warning, to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Ray says he has complete faith in the crews to make the right calls, but without the aid of replay, the punishment shouldn’t be as harsh.

“If it’s a questionable call and they do call it flagrant, then I can live with it better just by losing him for that game,” Ray said.

brandon.speck@journalinc.com