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NMAA petitions national federation on snap rule

It probably won’t retroactively soothe the feelings of the Artesia Bulldogs, but if it makes them feel any better, they might become part of the reason why a national high school football rule changes for next season.

At least, that is the hope of the New Mexico Activities Association.

NMAA associate director Dusty Young, who is also the state’s director of football, today leaves for Indianapolis. Among the many items on his agenda, he has petitioned the National Federation of State High School Associations about changing a rule — a controversial rule that led to a miracle finish in one of the state’s most intense rivalries.

“This is the first time since I’ve been the director of football that New Mexico has had a rules change proposal heard at the national level,” Young said.

Going back to Oct. 29 at the Wool Bowl in Roswell, the short version is this: Goddard won a district game in which Artesia was leading 35-34, with the ball, and trying to run a “victory” formation with only 30 seconds on the clock.

After five failed attempts to jump the snap and jar the ball loose from the center — which included five offsides penalties against the Goddard defense — the Rockets’ defender did eventually slap the ball out of Jarod Acosta’s hands and force a turnover. Artesia coach Rex Henderson told the Journal that the officials told him that the center was already in the process of starting his motion.

The Artesia Daily Press, in a next-day story after the game that did not identify its source, reported that the NMAA’s outside evaluators concluded that Goddard’s defensive tackle swiped at the ball prior to the snap.

Goddard recovered the fumble and moments later kicked a game-winning field goal to win 37-35.

After the NMAA spoke to the national federation following the Goddard-Artesia game, it was confirmed that NFHS rules allow for a defensive player to swipe at the ball, but only after the snap has begun.

If the NMAA’s proposal passes, it would essentially disallow the possibility of a defensive player making such an attempt to knock the ball from the snapper’s hands.

The game film of the play in question appears to show the ball to be stationary when the Rocket defender knocked it out of the Artesia center’s hands.

Naturally, there was a firestorm in Artesia over the ending, and concern from Henderson, citing the “integrity of our game,” that other teams may begin to adopt a similar strategy.

The national rules conference will be Saturday and Sunday in Indianapolis. Young has for four years been New Mexico’s representative on the rules committee, which includes a representative from every state association.

It would have to pass through several levels before being changed for the 2017 season, including a final confirmation vote by the NFHS Board of Directors. That would likely occur a week or two after this weekend’s conference ends.

How unusual was this single play that it will be heard nationally?

Well, even Goddard coach Chris White, the day after the crazy finish, described the Rockets’ victory to the Journal as “kind of like winning the lottery. It’s a million-to-one type of deal. Damndest thing I’ve ever seen.”

If this rule is reversed, it could be that Goddard will become the last team in the country to ever use this ploy and win a football game.