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Ask a Ref: All About Faceoffs

0 - Published April 1, 2014 by in General, High School, Youth

Editor’s Note: This post is co-authored by Mark Donahue and Gordon Corsetti. The following information is based on the 2014 NFHS Rulebook, Official’s Mechanics Manual, and knowledge gained from many years of repetition.

Duties of the Lead Official

Faceoff bishop kelly vs hellgate high school lacrosse

After a goal is scored or to begin a half, as the Lead Official, bring the ball up to the Center X, hold it directly above your head and then immediately place it directly in the center or the X. If there is not X, spot the ball directly in the middle of the line in the centermost part of the field. By holding the ball over your head you are signifying to your partner to turn on the 20-second timer.

Stand over the ball until you receive the Ready For Play signal from the Wing Official. While you wait, you can ask the players standing to “Show Me Plastic” or small reminders about previously violated rules, but I don’t recommend carrying the conversation on with the faceoff men much past the first quarter at the higher levels.

Once the Wing Official lowers his arm pointing to the goal he will be the lead on, you may back off the ball. Some officials rotate where they stand on faceoffs from straddling the midline to standing over the player’s shoulder. Honestly, by picking either place you will give up a visual angle at either: a) the neutral zone from the midline position or b) leaning over the line from the shoulder position. I personally prefer to give up the neutral zone and straddle the line, flipping sides occasionally. Just remember, no matter where you stand you aren’t going to be out of the line of fire.

The cadence for faceoffs must be Down, Set, Whistle, faceoff men are counting on this.

Bring the players Down, making sure that they go to the ground simultaneously. Early in the game, unless the player comes down and actually moves the ball, just about any violation that occurs I will give the players a verbal warning to adjust before Set. If you have warned a particular faceoff man already about any particular violations, I don’t recommend giving him another chance the next time around.

Once the players come down, approach the ball and get in to their best stance, you shall announce loud enough for the players to both players to hear the words Set. Once you say the words Set, players are to remain silent and motionless. Until you verbally say set, unless the players have touched the ball, they have not committed any violations (except potentially equipment).

What To Look For Pre-whistle

  • Players going Down at the same time.
  • Hands/Sticks are not touching the 4” in midline.
  • Hands are not touching the plastic of the head.
  • The ball is placed between the widest parts of the head.
  • No tape is on the head.
  • Heads are perpendicular to the ground.
  • Both hands are touching the ground.
  • The entire body is to the left of the head.
  • No part of the stick (pocket, strings, plastic) is touching the ball.
  • Players motionless after Set.

Watching The Play Post-whistle

  • Pinning their own or opponents crosse down with any part of their body, specifically elbows and knees.
  • Deliberately delaying getting the ball out by pinning to the ground for an exaggerated amount of time.
  • Taking “body” off the whistle, or hitting the player while he is on his knees when the ball “comes out.”
  • Kicking the crosse with the first step, a faceoff man will try to plant his foot behind the head of his opponent and sometime he may kick the head intentionally or not, it must be called.
  • A player touching the ball with his fingers or palms, if you see this immediately throw the flag and blow the whistle to signal a 1 minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Note: It the player punched the ball out or rakes it backward with his closed hand the play is legal as long as his hands are wrapped around the shaft.
  • The ball being stuck in the head. Remember, the ball is not stuck until we can prove it. That means he essentially gets one “shake” or one lacrosse motion (throw, flip, etc.) to get the ball from the back of the head to the front. Also, if the defense checks the stick in a way that it is impossible for the ball to not come out, then we can prove it, but little stick checks a the player is evading may not justify the Illegal Procedure call. Note: The player can run with the ball in the back of his head as long as he wants and may even shoot and score if he chooses. It is not Illegal Procedure until he violates one of the above situations.
  • If a player violates any of the listed situations, stand both players up pre-whistle or blow the whistle immediately and signal Illegal Procedure and point in the direction of the new goal to be attacked. If the players are five yards away from the player in possession of the ball, don’t hesitate to blow your whistle immediately. The quick whistle aspect of modern lacrosse is very important to get everyone on the field comfortable with.

I know it’s a college video, but it’s worth noting that kids are sending themselves to college for being a FOGO. These kids are dedicating their lives to the art of facing off, please give them and the game the respect it deserves by making sure the rules are followed and that you continue to improve as an official while the athletes continue to improve their craft.

Duties of the Wing Official

Faceoff wing line bishop kelly vs hellgate high school lacrosse

Once the Face Off Official brings the ball to Center X for the next face the Wing Official checks that the entire field is ready for play. The Wing Official, as the name suggests, stands near the wing line and starts the 20-second timer once the Face Off official brings the ball to Center X. Once the timer is running both teams have 20 seconds to get the correct players on the field and in the correct spots:

  • 3 in the offensive end behind the restraining line*
  • 4 in the defensive end behind the restraining line (3 players + 1 goalkeeper)
  • 3 in between the restraining lines (1 player on each wing + 1 face off player) Note – Players do not have to stay inside the box before or during a face off. They are confined to the area below the restraining line so standing in the alley is okay.

Teams can check that the 20-second timer is active by looking at the wing official. One arm held in the air signifies that the field is not ready for play and that the timer is running. If one team is not set and the 20-second timer buzzes the Wing Official will penalize that team by turning the ball over with a Delay Of Game (DOG) call. Generally, if both teams are not set and the timer goes off the Wing Official will turn the timer off and inform both teams to be quicker getting onto the field.

Once the field is set the Wing Official will move his arm from up in the air to pointing at the goal he covers as the Lead Official at shoulder level. This is the ready signal, which tells the Face Off Official that the field is set and the face off can now begin.

Everything you want to know about positioning of players before a face off and penalties that can occur during the face can be found in NFHS Rule 4.4. The major rule difference this season from last season is that a man down team is not permitted to fill the wing on a man down face off. This rule makes a lot of sense. Why should a team that committed a penalty (usually a non-releasable foul, or a live-ball personal foul) be permitted to face off against the other team at even strength? I really liked this rule change because it makes my job as the wing official on a man down face easier because I don’t have to identify the “Hot” player filling the wing, and I don’t have to worry at all about offside calls during the face.

While that is the big rule change for 2014, there are a lot of other situations during a face that can cause confusion. The biggest one for officials to recognize is a non-releasable penalty that has only a few second left and a face off about to occur. A player in the penalty box who gets counted down to zero does not get to release from the box until the face off is over (possession called or ball crosses the restraining line). The easiest way I describe this situation is that if a player is not participating in the face off (wing or face off midfielders) then they do not get to participate until possession is called or the ball crosses the restraining line and play is called. This is a safety rule through and through. Say a Red player has two seconds left on his non-releasable foul and a face off begins. The ball squirts over to near the box and a White player is just about to pick it up when the Red player is released. The Red player hits the unaware White player and now the officials likely have a defenseless player call to make. If there are two seconds left on a foul to start a man-down face off that player remains in the box even if the face off takes 45 seconds before possession or play is declared.

Anytime there is a penalty on the face off the ball should be awarded to the offended team on their side of the field at Center X, unless the ball was already on their offensive side of the field when the other team commits the foul. The big thing to note here is that the players behind the restraining lines are not released until the whistle to restart play is sounded.

The Wing Official in a two-man crew has a difficult job right before the face off. He must simultaneously watch four wing players running into the center of the field at full speed. The tricky part is that two of those players are almost forty yards away from the Wing Official. I like to check if the players are near one another on the wings. If they are on opposite ends of the wing line I leave them alone for the most part since those players are not getting in each other’s way anytime soon, but if two players are jostling for position or are right next to one another I am focusing most of my attention on them*. Oh, fun fact – I can barely make out the wing line opposite me as the Wing Official and I don’t try to. I ran LSM when I played and I always lined up over the wing line when I saw the officials were in a two-man crew and the wing official was opposite me. I used a weak point in two-man mechanics to gain an advantage for myself on the face off, but I always made sure to be fully behind the line when the Wing Official was on my side of the field.

Note – It is perfectly acceptable for the wing players to gain a running start or move prior to the whistle. They may not touch or cross the wing line with any part of their body so leaning over it with the crosse is okay as well. Wing players are bound by the wing line so no lining up right at the top of the restraining line on your defensive side of the field to stop a fast break!

Finally, I must make note of the saddest moment of the pre-season for me as I was reading through my new 2014 rulebook. Rule 4.4.3 Situation B used to allow opposing goalkeepers to face off in the event that both teams had a player in the penalty box. Ever since I started officiating I wanted to see this happen, but now I never will as the new version of Rule 4.4.3 Situation B clearly states that opposing goalkeepers may not face off.

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