With the ever-increasing number of 7on7 events nationwide, it’s important for players and coaches to realize not everyone plays by the same rules. Below are some of the more traditional 7on7 rules and common variations.
The Playing Field
Under AAU and USA Football guidelines, the playing field is 40-yards long. Several other organizations utilize a 45-yard long field. The field width is consistent with the standard football field width of 160-feet. The end zone is the standard 10-yard depth.
A game played under AAU rules is 30-minutes long and with a running clock. In the case of injury it is up to the referee to decide whether or not to stop the clock. (An injured player must leave the field for a minimum of one play.) USA Football rules call for a game of 21 minutes. There is also a continuous clock – UNTIL the FINAL minute of play. An offense can then stop the clock according to normal football rules (incomplete pass or ball carrier running out of bounds, e.g.). Some tournaments will include two halves, each consisting of 20-minutes or more. A 25-second play clock (amount of time allotted between the end of one play and the snap of the ball on the next play) is a standard rule. Another standard time rule requires the quarterback to throw the ball no later than 4.0 seconds after the snap of the ball. If the quarterback doesn’t throw within that time, the defense is awarded a sack. (Remember, there is no ‘rushing’ the QB in 7on7.)
The AAU allows only one first down. Starting from the 40-yard line a team must reach, or go beyond, the 20-yard line within four downs. The offense has four additional downs to score. USA Football permits two first downs, one at the 25-yard line and again at the 10-yard line. The offense has three downs to reach the first down marker. In games where the offense begins at the 45-yard line, first downs are attainable at the 30-yard line and the 15-yard line and the team has three downs to make a first down marker.
Both USA Football and AAU count touchdowns as 6 points, and 3 points are awarded for an interception by the defense. Additionally, AAU permits interceptions to be returned past the 40-yard line for defensive touchdown of 6 points. PAT and 2-point conversions after touchdowns differ among organizations. USA Football calls for PAT (1-point) snaps from the five-yard line (offense has the choice of hash or middle of field to line up) and only allows a 2-point conversion from the 10-yard line in sanctioned tournament play. AAU rules state the 1-point PAT is snapped from the 10-yard line, or the 2-point conversion may be chosen by the offense. The ball is snapped from the 15-yard line.
Other Basic Rules
Number of Players
Obviously, a 7on7 game allows for seven ‘active’ players from each team in a game. There are some ‘caveats’ here. For instance, high school teams running a 33/35 Stack defense normally eight players off the line of scrimmage. While there are tournaments permitting such teams to have one player ‘take a knee’ at the snap to even competition, USA Football only allows 7 defenders on the field at one time. Also, there are rules allowing for an actual center to snap the ball but other leagues/tournaments require the quarterback to ‘slap the ball’ to simulate the snap.
Tournaments/Leagues may or may not require mouth guards be worn. Players may not be allowed wear actual football jerseys (many organizations insist on T-Shirts). Standard football cleats (non-metal) may be worn. Each team is responsible for supplying its own football for use on offense. Many states require high school-sanctioned summer tournaments to include the wearing of football helmets.
No blocking or screening of defenders (simulating a block) is allowed. An offensive player is ‘down’ when touched by a defender’s hand below the neck (There 7on7 leagues utilizing ‘flag’ rules as well). Pass interference rules vary from being a ‘spot’ foul to a 5-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage (and a loss of down if an offensive penalty).