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Youth League Rules

Version 18.3 (7/5/18)

I. Basic Information

1.  Snap – a transfer of the football from the Center to the Quarterback between the Center's legs which starts the play.  Center can snap only after both markers are placed AND after the referees give the signal (whistle) to start.  The ball must leave the center's hands (clear separation).  The QB cannot touch hand-off the ball to the center.

2.  Field dimensions – 25 yards wide and 70 yards long.

3.  Line of scrimmage – the imaginary line parallel to the rear end zone lines, across the width of the field, running through the point of the football and marked by marker where the offense must start behind to start a play. 

4.  Rushing line – the imaginary line parallel to the rear end zone lines, across the width of the field, 7 yards away from the line of scrimmage on the defensive side and marked by a marker.  Rushers must start behind the rushing line to rush the Quarterback.

5.  Front end zone lines – the line the offense must pass to score (10 yards from the rear end zone lines).

6.  Mid field line – the line the offense must pass to get a first down (25 yards from the front end zone lines).

7.  Downs (1-2-3-4) – the offensive squad has four plays or “downs” to advance the ball. They must cross the mid field line to get another set of downs or the front end zone lines to score.

 

II. Jerseys/Equipment

1.  Players must wear MHFF jerseys and shorts during the game. 

2.  Players must wear shoes at all times. Nonmetal cleats are strongly recommended. Metal cleats are not allowed.

3.  Players must remove all hats, watches, earrings, any other jewelry and any other hard object (braces, casts, splints, etc.) before play.

4.  Players may tape or wrap their ankles, knees, wrists, hands and fingers. Players may wear gloves. 

 

III. Rosters 

1.  Each team can have a maximum of ten (10) players suit up for each game 

2.  Players may be added after the season starts with approval from league officials.

3.  Attempting to play players not on the official roster will result in the player and coach being suspended from the league.

4.  Teams must have at least four (4) players to play a game.  Their opponents can choose to play with 4 or 5 players.

5.  Teams with three (3) or fewer players 10 minutes after the start time will have to forfeit the game. 

6.   50% Rule 

a) If you have 10 players (we'll name them 1-10), it's pretty straight forward.

You have 3 options:

 

i) 1-5 play on offensive side the entire game and 6-10 play on the defensive side the entire game

ii) 1-5 play on offensive side during the 1st half but defensive side during the 2nd half.  6-10 opposite

iii) 1-5 play on offensive side during the 1st half but in the 2nd half some but not all of the players go on defense and some stay on offense.  6-10 opposite.

 

No switching is allowed during a half if you have 10 healthy players.

 

b) If you have 9 (we'll name them 1-9) or 8 or 7 players

Same rules as above,

but in addition

If 1-5 is on offense and 6-9 is on defense,

someone from 1-5 needs to play defense.

You must rotate through the 5 players (this is different from previous years)

For example, 1st defensive series, 5 plus 6-9 are on defense

The next defensive series, 5 cannot play again.  You have to use someone from 1-4.

 

If you have 7 or more players, no player can more than 3 series.

 

Extra point after a defensive TD does count as a possession.

 

Coaches need to submit a roster card to the referee at the beginning of each half.

 

IV. Possessions

1.  The home team gets first offense possession in the first half.  The visiting team gets the first offense possession in the second half.  There is no coin toss.

2.  The offensive team takes possession of the ball at its 5-yard line and has four plays to cross midfield or to score. Once a team crosses midfield and gets a first down, it has four more plays to score a touchdown. Unless a defensive foul is called that awards a 1st down.

3.  If the offensive team fails to cross midfield line or fails to score from inside the midfield line after three plays, they may choose to “punt” and make the other team take possession of the ball at their 5-yard line or go for the first down or touchdown on 4th down. 

4.  If the offense goes for a first down or touchdown on fourth down but fails to get a first down or touchdown (turnover on downs), the ball changes possession and the new offensive team takes over where the other team last had possession. 

5.  All possession changes except for interceptions and loss on downs start on the offensive 5-yard line.

 

V. Timing and Overtime 

1.  The length of the game is 50 minute (two 25 minute halves). 

2.  The clock stops only for timeouts (30 seconds) and half-time (which is 3 minutes) except in the last 2 minutes of the game IF the two teams are within 8 points or less of each other, the clock will stop for scores (extra point will not take time off the clock), penalties and change of possession (but NOT out of bounds and incomplete passes).  

3.  Each time the ball and cones are spotted AND the referees are off the field and give the signal to start (whistle), a team has 30 seconds to snap the ball.  

4.  Each team has two 30-second time outs per half.  Teams get to keep un-used time outs from the second half if there is an Overtime (OT) period.  Any head coach or assistant coach may call for a time out.  Once a time out is requested and granted, you cannot take back the request.  Calling a time-out when your team does not have one results in a 10 yard penalty.

5.  Referees can stop the clock at their discretion.

6.  In the event of an injury, the clock will stop (injury time out) and then restart when the injured player is removed from the field of play or is able to play again.  Any injury time out in the last 2 minutes of the game will result in a 15 second run off if the player is on the team behind or if tied.  A second injury time out in the last 2 minutes will result in a 30 second run off if the player is on the team behind or if tied. 

7.  If the score is tied at the end of regulation, an Overtime (OT) period will be used to determine a winner. The OT format is as follows: 

a) Each team gets one play to score either one extra point from the other team’s 5 yard line or two extra points from the other team's 10 yard line. The offensive team gets to choose 1 or 2 points.

b) First possession goes to the visiting team and the second possession goes to the home team. 

c) All regulation period rules and penalties are in effect. 

d) If the defense intercepts the ball and returns it all the way to the other end, that team wins. 

e) In the event of a tie after the first series, the team with the second possession in the first series (home) will get the first possession of the second series. 

f) This continues until a tie is broken.

g) If there is an OT period, teams may change their line-ups and rotations but still need to follow the 50% rule.

 

VI. Scoring, Forfeits and Tie breaks

1.  Touchdown – 6 points

2.  Extra point – 1 point (from the 5) or 2 points (from the 10).  Defense may score 1 or 2 points by running interception back to the opposing end zone during an extra point(s) attempt.

3.  Safety – 2 points.

a) A Safety occurs when the ball carrier is declared down in his/her own end zone. A player can be called down when his/her flags are pulled by a defensive player, he or she step out of bounds or hit the ground with their body, hip or knee in the end zone or if the ball is dropped in the end zone (but not the center snap).  

*A center snap that drops in the end zone counts as a fumble but is placed at the 1 yard line (not where the ball dropped).

b) A Safety also occurs when the offense commits intentional grounding, flag guarding or blocking or screen blocking in the end zone. 

c) After a Safety, the defensive team gets possession of the ball at their own 5 yard line.

4.  Forfeits (not ready to play within 10 minutes of starting time) – Scored 28-0.

5.  Tie break between two teams – Head to head WL, TBD

6.  Tie break between three or more teams – Head to head WL, TBD

 

VII. Live Ball/Dead Ball 

1.  The ball is live at the snap of the ball and remains live until the play is dead. 

2.  Play is ruled “dead” when any of these conditions are met and the ball is marked where it's dead except for section f) below: 

a. The ball hits the ground.  *A center snap that drops in the end zone counts as a fumble but is placed at the 1 yard line (not where the ball dropped).

b. The ball carrier’s flag is pulled or ball carrier steps out of bounds (where the players hips are when the flag separates not where the ball is except when the ball is behind the hips then the balls is placed where the ball was.) 

c. The ball carrier is tagged (with one hand) if his/her flag falls down prior to getting pulled (where the players hips are not where the ball is except when the ball is behind the hips then the ball is placed where the ball was when the flag is pulled.)

d. The defensive player gets possession of the ball but not from an interception (defender catching a lateral or if the offensive player loses control of the ball while running and is caught by the defender before it hits the ground.).  This counts as a fumble and offense retains possession.

e. The ball carrier’s body, hip or knee hits the ground (where the player’s hips are not where the ball is except when the ball is behind the hips then the ball is placed where the ball is)

f. A touchdown, extra point or safety is scored. 

3.  In the case of an inadvertent whistle, the play is considered dead and is replayed from the original line of scrimmage. Ref does not have discretion to “play on”.

 

VIII. Running 

1.  The Quarterback may not run past the line of scrimmage with the ball unless the ball is first handed off (ball has to clearly leave the QB) or lateraled or pitched to another player.

2.  Runners may not charge or run through a defender (considered flag guarding), dive head first (considered flag guarding) to avoid a tackle. Jumping and spinning are allowed (but not into a stationery defender).

 

IX. Receiving 

1.  All players are eligible to receive passes (including the Quarterback if the ball has been given to another player behind the line of scrimmage). 

2.  A player must be completely in-bounds when making a reception or the first part that lands (if a player jumps to make a catch) after the reception must be in-bounds to count as a legal reception.

3.  In the case of simultaneous possession of the pass by both an offensive and defensive player, possession is awarded to the offensive player. 

 

X. Passing, Laterals, Hand-offs

1.  Pass – an over-head throw of the football from the ball carrier to another player.  Passes once a player is beyond the line of scrimmage are not allowed. 

2.  Lateral or pitch – an under-hand toss of the football from the ball carrier to another player. Laterals and pitches once a player is beyond the line of scrimmage are not allowed. 

3.  Hand-off – a direct transfer of the football from the ball carrier to another player.  Hand-offs once a player is beyond the line of scrimmage are not allowed.  

4.  A player who receives a backwards pass or hand-off or lateral or pitch can throw the ball from behind the line of scrimmage.

5.  Two forward pass/lateral/pitch/hand-off are not allowed in the same play but two or more backwards pass/lateral/pitch/hand-off (in the back field) are allowed.


XI. Rushing the Passer 

1.  Any number of players can rush the Quarterback.

2.  Players who start less than 7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage cannot cross the line of scrimmage until after the ball leaves the quarterback or if they go back to the rush line before rushing.

3.  Once the ball is handed off or lateraled or pitched or passed, all defenders may rush past the line of scrimmage. 

4.  Players rushing the Quarterback may attempt to block a pass. However, the rusher may not make significant contact with the Quarterback. 

5.  A sack occurs if the Quarterback’s flag is pulled behind the line of scrimmage. 

6.  Although the rusher has the right of way to the Quarterback, he/she cannot run through a stationary offensive player or attempt to initiate contact with a moving offensive player.  

 

XII. Flag Pulling 

1.  A legal flag pull takes place when the ball carrier is in full possession of the ball. 

2.  Defenders can dive to pull flags, but cannot tackle or hold the ball carrier when attempting to pull flags. 

3.  If a player’s flag falls off prior to being pulled by the defender, tagging that player with one hand is equivalent to pulling the flag. 

 

XIII. Offensive Formations and Motions 

1.  The Center must start on the line of scrimmage and the Quarterback must start behind the line of scrimmage.  The other players may start on or behind the line of scrimmage.

2.  After the formation is set, only one player is allowed in motion at a time. All motion must be backwards or parallel (or both) to the line of scrimmage and no motion is permitted towards the line of scrimmage (forward).  

 

XIV. Penalties 

1.  The referees will call all penalties.  

2.  If there are 3 referees, the 1st (head ref or most senior ref) should be on one sideline at the line of scrimmage on the coach’s side.  The 2nd should be on the other sideline (parent side) at the rush line.  The 3rd should be behind the QB.

3.  If there are 2 referees, the 1st (head ref or most senior ref) should be on one sideline at the line of scrimmage on the coach’s side.  The 2nd should be on the other sideline (parent side) at the rush line.

4.  All penalties are live ball fouls (throw flag but do not blow whistle) unless otherwise noted as a dead ball foul (throw flag AND blow whistle).

5.  The offense or defense may decline live ball penalties and take the result of the play.

6.  Games/halves cannot end on a defensive penalty, unless the offense declines it. 

7.  All penalties are from the original line of scrimmage unless otherwise noted (spot fouls).

8.  Penalties will be assessed half the distance to the goal line when the penalty yardage places the ball in the end zone (except for defensive pass interference in the end zone).

9.  Coaches may challenge (request a clock stoppage and review the rule book) for rule mistakes (timing, distance, etc.) but NOT judgment calls (interference, holding, tackling, etc.).  Referees cannot deny a legal challenge.  

a)  Offensive Penalties 

i) 5 yard penalties

·         False start - Moving in such a way as to simulate the start of a play or making a sudden movement toward the line of scrimmage (does not have to cross the line). Dead ball foul.  Ref should throw flag and blow the whistle to stop play.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.  Cannot be declined.

·         Illegal motion - simultaneous movement of two or more players after they are set in their formation. Dead ball foul.  Ref should throw flag and blow the whistle to stop play.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.  Cannot be declined.

·         Delay of game - taking more than the allowed time to snap the ball after the ball is placed by the referee and gives the signal to start the clock (a whistle).  The referee needs to give 10 second warning and count down prior to assessing this penalty (unless there is a visible 30 second clock on the field).  Dead ball foul.  Ref should throw flag and blow the whistle to stop play.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.  Cannot be declined.

·         Illegal snap - snapping the ball prior to the referee giving the start whistle.  Dead ball foul.  Ref should throw flag and blow the whistle to stop play.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.  Cannot be declined.

·          Coach on field at time of snap-Dead ball foul.  Ref should throw flag and blow the whistle to stop play.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.  Cannot be declined.  (This is a new penalty).

·         Illegal run - QB running past the line of scrimmage with the ball.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.

·         Illegal hand-off - hand-off beyond line of scrimmage or a touch hand-off to the Center from the Quarterback.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.

·         Illegal lateral or pitch - lateral or pitch beyond line of scrimmage.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down.

·         Illegal forward pass - throwing a pass once a player steps beyond the line of scrimmage or two forward passes/lateral/pitch/hand-off.  Move the ball 5 yards back and replay the down unless the defense declines (incomplete pass or interception).

ii) 10 yard penalties 

·         Blocking/Illegal contact - making significant physical contact with a defensive player.  Includes blocking, pick plays, pushing off, tripping, impeding the rusher, etc.  Whether the call is offensive or defensive illegal contact depends on who initiated the contact.  Move the ball 10 yards back and replay the down unless the defense declines.

·         Screen blocking - running between a ball carrier and a defender AND preventing the defense from getting to the flag of the ball carrier.  Contact does NOT have to occur but the defender has to be significantly impeded.  Includes a player moving into the way of the rusher (but does not make contact).  Move the ball 10 yards back and replay the down unless the defense declines.

·         Flag guarding - any physical attempt of the ball carrier (including using the ball) whether intentional or unintentional to prevent the defensive player from grabbing the flag.  Contact has to occur.  Charging (which is defined as trying to run/jump through a stationary defensive player) is considered flag guarding.  Diving head first to avoid a tackle is considered flag guarding (defensive player has to be in position to make the flag pull).   Includes un-tucked shirt.  Move the ball 10 yards back and replay the down unless the defense declines.

·         Intentional grounding - throwing the ball away to avoid a sack (the ball has to pass the line of scrimmage to avoid a penalty.)   Move the ball 10 yards back and loss of down (turnover if it occurs on 4th down).

·         Offensive pass interference - making significant physical contact with a defensive player while trying to make a catch.  Move the ball 10 yards back and loss of down (turnover if it occurs on 4th down).

·         Illegal substitution (50% rule) - Move the ball 10 yards back and loss of down (turnover if it occurs on 4th down).

·         Unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct (including rough play, offensive language, poor behavior or excessive celebration) - Player or coach may be ejected by the referee or league administrator if excessive or repeated.  Move the ball 10 yards back and loss of down (turnover if it occurs on 4th down).  FOUL PLAY WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

 

b) Defensive Penalties 

i) 5 yard penalties

·          Coach on field at time of snap-LIVE ball foul (unlike offensive equivalent).  Ref should throw flag but NOT blow the whistle to stop play.  Move the ball 5 yards and replay the down.   (This is a new penalty).

·         Off-sides - crossing the line of scrimmage before the snap.  Getting back does NOT negate the penalty.  Move the ball 5 yards and replay the down unless the offense declines.

·         Illegal rush - crossing the line of scrimmage from inside the 7 yard mark after the snap but before the ball leaves the quarterback (hand-off, pitch, lateral or pass).  Getting back does NOT negate the penalty.  Move the ball 5 yards and replay the down unless the offense declines.

ii) 10 yard penalties

·         Illegal contact - making significant contact with the offensive player who does or does not have the ball and is not involved with catching a pass, running into a stationary player or attempting to knock ball out (stripping), etc. Move the ball 10 yards and replay the down unless the offense declines.

·         Defensive pass interference - making significant contact with the offensive player who is attempting to catch a pass.  Spot of foul plus 10 yards unless the offense declines.  Place ball at 1 yard line if PI occurs in the end zone.

·         Holding - holding on to jersey or shorts to significantly impede the offensive player.  Spot of foul plus 10 yards unless the offense declines.

·         Tackling or Pushing runner out of bounds - Intent is NOT necessary to call this penalty.  Spot of foul plus 10 yards unless the offense declines.

·         Roughing the passer - making significant contact with the passer (includes hitting the ball when it's still in the QBs hand). Move the ball 10 yards.  Automatic first down for the offense.

·         Illegal substitution (50% rule) - Move the ball 10 yards.  Automatic first down for the offense.

·         Unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct (including rough play, offensive language, poor behavior or excessive celebration) - Player or coach may be ejected by the referee or league administrator if excessive or repeated.  Move the ball 10 yards.  Automatic first down for the offense.  FOUL PLAY WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

 

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