Photo Credit: Ted Mcclenning

When I was a deep official, I would catch flak from my linesman and line judge crewmates. They told me they do most of the work in a game and that I only pay attention when there is a pass or kick. It is true that wing officials are involved in the vast majority of plays as most of them start with a snap. Many rulings must be made before and at the snap.

Then there are judgments and knowing where to be once the ball is live. Wing officials need to be reminded of rulings and mechanics once a down is in progress. Here are suggestions and mechanical reminders for common live-ball situations.

Give a timeout signal while running downfield to get to a dead-ball location. Do that instead of waiting to call timeout after getting to the line-to-gain spot or where the ball or runner went out of bounds. The reason is that time could be lost, especially in critical situations like near the end of either half.

Here is an illustrative scenario. On second and 10 at team B’s 12 yardline, team A trails by four points. The clock shows 14 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. A1 catches a pass, runs and steps on the sideline at team B’s four yardline with two seconds on the clock. But the line judge did not signal the clock to stop until getting to the dead-ball spot. While the official was running, the clock ran down to zeroes, nobody corrected it and the referee declared the game over. Had the clock properly stopped, time would remain for team A to get an additional play to go for a touchdown to win the game.

Use good mechanics and signals at the goalline. Come in hard while running in the end zone when signaling touchdown near the goalline. That sells your call as you are displaying positive posture by rapidly moving in with your body in the end zone. Your position implies forward progress past the goalline.

No “me too” touchdown signal should be given just because you see the other wing go up with that signal. Only signal touchdown if you clearly see the ball breaking the goalline plane in player possession. When the ball is snapped inside team B’s five yardline, your first move should be to the goalline after the snap. Then you are in perfect position to rule on the ball penetrating the goalline in ballcarrier control. It is advantageous to make rulings while standing still. Come back to get the spot if the play ends in the field of play. Your local mechanics may dictate a yardline other than the five for the use of that mechanic, especially for NCAA games.

When the ball is snapped inside team A’s five yardline, an initial move back to the goalline will help you rule safety or not should a team A player be judged down in or near his own end zone.

Practice good dead-ball mechanics. Your duties are not over when a kick try or field goal is airborne near the goalposts. Come hard into the field to help monitor dead-ball action until teams separate and head toward their sidelines.

Other mechanics. Some associations may want wing officials to signal if a pass is forward or backward. That will help you and your wing partner determine a live or dead ball if it hits the ground.

An important ruling is if the passer is behind or beyond the line when the ball is released. If either of the passer’s feet (NFHS) or his entire body and the ball (NCAA) are past the line, throw a flag and note the foul spot for penalty enforcement purposes.

Your local mechanics may call for specific movements should a snap go over the punter’s head. One wing may stay at the line while the other moves into the offensive backfield to help the referee cover the play. For example, remain at the line if the referee’s back is to you or go back if you’re facing the referee.

For crews of four or five, you must know which wing official should be under the goalpost for a kick try or field-goal attempt. That is based on the referee’s location relative to the kicker and holder.

Now that NFHS also has a 40-second play clock, you must know when to give the 40-second clock signal at the end of certain plays. In crews of four or less, a wing may be required to keep the 40-second count if there is no visible play clock.
The pregame meeting is vital so the above mechanics and variances can be covered and all crew members are clear on their duties and positioning.

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