Basic Play

Basic Play

OFL football looks amazingly like what you already know. There are some critical differences though.

 

The Field

The dimensions of the field normally are 75 paces long, plus two ten-pace end zones, and 42 paces wide (with the width changing depending on the number of players).

The field has four first down lines marked by cones.

OFL field dimensionsThe field

Teams

Teams can have up to eleven players on the field at a time (typically we play with seven to ten on a side). Substitutions, should there be more than eleven players on a team, can be taken during any dead ball situation, as per normal football rules.

Teams are divided at random using the handy OFL Randomizer. Team captains and/or the Commissioner can decide on pre-game trades to ensure as even a game as possible.

Uniforms and Equipment

Players need to wear black or gold to distinguish what team they're on. I bring a big bag of black and gold scrimmage vests each week, plus we periodically get official OFL jerseys made up for regulars that want 'em.

I highly recommend cleats. (NOTE: Baseball cleats with metal spikes are not allowed. Everything else is cool.)

Tagging

An offensive player is considered "down" when a defensive player tags with ball-carrier with two hands fully contacting the body (one hand if the player is on the ground). Touching the arms only or only clothing (i.e. a small bit of T-shirt or the scrimmage vest), or tagging with fingertips, does not constitute a successful tag. Additionally, the ball does not count as part of the body.

Tags must be two palms to the body. Not fingertips; not to a piece of shirt or the ball. Two hands to the body. Arms, unless tight against the body, do not count. The ball or hands never count.

legal tag area
Legal tag area

legal tag area
Legal tag area when one arm is tight against the body

The defender -- once he's made the tag -- should then loudly say "I Got Ya!" or "Down!" or something. Yelling "I Got Ya!" before actually tagging a ball-carrier is not cool (yes, it happens a lot..) The play stops when you announce "Got Ya!" or "Down!" Therefore if you say it before you actually get the ball-carrier, you're cheating. Illegal (phantom) tagging is a 15-pace penalty from the spot of the foul, and automatic first down.

A offensive player is considered "down" when a defensive player tags with ball-carrier with two hands fully contacting the body (one hand if the player is on the ground). Touching only clothing (i.e. a small bit of T-shirt or the scrimmage vest), or tagging with fingertips, does not constitute a successful tag. Additionally, the ball does not count as part of the body.

The play may also end if a runner declares himself down by falling to the ground and makes no effort to advance, or has stopped advancing due to injury, or because he believed he was tagged.

Grabbing a ball carrier's clothes to stop him is a penalty. Grabbing clothing to stop a ball carrier or pass rush, or to shed a block is a penaly (15-pace penalty from the spot of the foul, and automatic first down). Knocking a player down via shoulder is illegal (15-pace penalty from the spot of the foul, and automatic first down).

New: If a defender grabs the ball carrier's clothing in an obvious attempt to prevent a touchdown, a penalty touchdown is automatically awarded.

Notes:

  • THE PLAY IS DEAD WHEN A DEFENSIVE PLAYER SAYS "GOTCHA". The offensive player is down when and where the defensive team claims the tag occurred. Period.
  • A QB is down the moment he is tagged, regardless if the arm is in motion.

As such, defensive players should be very sure they have applied a legal tag before yelling "Gotcha". A false tag is a penalty - it stops play dead, and everyone gets mad and the whole thing generally sucks.

Other note: If the quarterback is directly under center (for a direct snap), defenders cannot reach across the line of scrimmage for a tag, even on a blitz. The defender must have his feet across the LOS before a tag is allowed.

The "X-Point" Play

At the end of the game if one team is losing by more than 8 points, that team is allowed a single "X-point play", either a final "Hail Mary" pass after their final fourth down (i.e. a "fifth down") or, assuming they have scored a touchdown on the final possession, an "X-point conversion" attempt. In either case, the "X-point play" is worth however many points it takes to tie the game.

Teams that are down by 8 points or less must try to win or tie the game the old fashioned way.

Game Timing and Clock Management

The game is played in two 45 minute halves, plus extra time in the second half. The clock runs without stoppages except for three time-outs per team, per half. The referee/Commissioner attempts to announce the time as it reaches 45 min but it is the responsiblity of teams to be aware of the time. The clocks restarts on the snap on timeouts. Clock restarts on field goals when the kicker addresses the ball. Clock restarts on kickoffs begin at the kick.

Any teammate may call a time out.

When time expires in the first half, all play is over. The sole exception is when the offense is set up to attempt a field goal and time runs out before the defense has set the goal posts. In this situation, the offensive team is allowed the field goal attempt after time has expired.

When time expires in the second half, the team with the ball may continue their possession, unless they are in the lead. If the team with ball has a lead when time expires, the ball is immediately turned over to the team that is losing, for a single extra-time final possession. The team losing recovers possession at the spot where the last play at 0:00 is ruled dead—for a single extra-time final possession, thus the team winning must be aware the clock!

If the team losing scores within the 30 seconds of regulation, and is still losing, the ensuing kickoff is flipped—the scoring team receives the kickoff (thus avoiding a turnover at 0:00 during a kickoff).

Teams—regardless of score—cannot 'take a knee', in an attempt to game the clock. This results in a unsportsmanlike penalty (15 paces).

The team losing cannot punt on downs 1-3 (quick-kick) during the final two minutes of the game.

Allowing an opponenent to score so as to game the clock is considered bad sportsmanship.

If tied at the end of regulation, the game will end as a tie, except during playoff games which must continue to a sudden-death overtime period (until there is a winner).

The Commissioner maintains the clock. Any clock malfunctions are part of the game.

Team Captains

Each team has a team captain. The two captains will confer with each other and the Commissioner on controversial situations. If the two captains cannot agree on a course of action, the Commissioner will rule on the play.

Uneven Teams

In the event that teams have unequal numbers the following rules apply:

  • Last player to arrive at the field will switch teams at the half
  • Teams flip for who has the extra player in the first half (winner of toss decides)
  • Linemen on the team with the extra player may not receive any forward pass, even if behind the line of scrimmage
  • The team with the extra player must send in enough extra blitzers so as to expose the exact number of defenders against the exact number of eligible receivers (five, maximum)
  • The quarterback on the team with the extra player may not cross the line of scrimmage
  • The team with the extra player may only only throw one forward pass per play

First Downs

The offense has four downs to reach the next 'line to gain' (marked by a cone) otherwise the ball is turned over.

The field is 75 yards long (plus two end zones) and is broken into quarters—each 15 yards long, and marked by a cones. These cones mark the 'line to gain'.

The lines-to-gain do not move or change. It is typical that offenses may encounter both first-and-short situations or first-and-long situations. 

Kickoffs

At the start of the game and of the second half, and after every score, there will be a kickoff. Kickoffs can either be punted or kicked from the ground (using a holder or a "heel-hole" in the ground.)

A "neutral zone" of fifteen yards from the spot of the kick is established before the kick. Players cannot enter this zone before the kick.

The ball is kicked from the a "Kicking Spot" (30 paces from the goal line; 15 paces from the goal line after a safety). If a holder is to be used the ball is held at that spot. If the ball is being punted, the kicker must kick the ball by the time he/she gets to the "Kicking Spot".

The rest of the kicking team lines up fifteen paces behind the Kicking Spot (i.e. normally 15 paces from the goal line).

The receiving team can line up anywhere beyond the neutral zone (i.e. one cone away from the Kicking Spot).

The ball is considered live once it is kicked. The kicking team can recover a kick that has gone at least 15 yards, or has been touched by a receiver first, but cannot advance it.

The team in the lead may not attempt a purposeful onsides kick.

Kickoff returns are spotted at a sensible place in relation to a down marker to avoid 1st-down and inches situations. Thus any returned kick that is spotted between halfway between two cones may be movedup to the next cone, or brought back to the 'half-way' point between cones.

If a kickoff goes out-of-bounds the ball will placed at the receiving team's thirty yard line (second cone)

Touchbacks are spotted fifteen paces from the receiving team's goal line (the first cone).

Punts and Field Goals

Punting

Teams may punt at any time. Fake punts are allowed. If the punt bounces off a receiving player, or is fumbled after it is caught, it is a live ball. A punt that fails to cross the line of scrimmage continues in play, as if a fumbled ball. All players, including the kicking team, may catch or recover the ball behind the line of scrimmage and advance it.

On punts only three kicking team players ("gunners") may cross the line of scrimmage before the ball does.

One the punted ball crosses the line of scrimmage. the punter should announce "kick's away" so remaining players can proceed downfield. Sending more than three gunners is a four yard penalty (replay the down).

Field goals

Field Goals are worth 3 points. A field goal is dead ball play—similar to a rugby penalty kick, or the rare fair-catch free kick in NFL. Two defensive players must create goal-posts by raising arms laterally, touching fingertips to form an "H" shape and then side-stepping away from each other by two large steps. Fake field goals are not allowed.

OFL goal posts

Drop-kicked Field Goals are worth 6 points.

On any field goal attempt the ball must be kicked from the ground, either via a holder or via a drop-kick. New for 2016: No snap is neccesary.

Rushing is allowed against a field goal attempt from the goal-line only, and no fake field goals are allowed. The ball cannot be advanced by either team, even if blocked or short. The ball can be held (or drop-kicked) from anywhere behind the line the scrimmage.

On drop-kick attempts, the defense may attempt to block the kick from anywhere of their side of the line of scrimmage.

New for 2016:

  1. No snap is required on a field goal. The ball can be held at the scrimmage flag, or at any spot behind the scrimmage flag. On a miss the ball is now spotted at the spot of the kick attempt.
  2. During a field-goal the defense may attempt to block the kick. Those players who are not positioned as the "goal posts" may now line up on the goal line and then charge the ball once the kicker has begun to move forward to kick the ball. Players may not touch the kicker but can bat down the ball. A batted field-goal attempt is a dead ball and the ball turned over at the spot of the kick attempt. Teams do not need to attempt a block of the kick but any attempt must start from the goal line. Attempting to block a field kick without having lined up at the goal line is an illegal procedure penalty (4 paces, & replay the down)

 

Legal catch

A legal reception is ONE foot in-bounds. (NOTE: As we have no side judges if the catch is in question leeway is given for great effort.)

Scoring

Seven points are awarded to a team that scores a touchdown. The scoring team can elect to decline the automatic one point conversion and attempt a two point conversion from three paces out. If they are successful in the conversion they are awarded two points, making the touchdown and conversion worth eight points. If they are not successful, they walk away with six points instead.

A two point conversion can be run back by the defense for two points (safety).

A touchdown is scored when an offensive player has control of the ball and has one foot (or the majority of his or her body while in a prone position) in the end zone. As with all catches, if there is any controversy regarding one foot inbounds leeway is given if the player has completed a "spectacular" catch.

Three points are given for a standard field goal (ball is kicked from the ground and held by a player). Missed field goal attempts are spotted at the spot of the kick attempt.

Six points are given for a drop-kicked field goal.

A safety (two points) is scored when an offensive player is tagged in his or her own end zone or when an offensive player kicks the ball or fumbles the ball out of bounds through his/her own end zone. A safety is worth two points for the defensive team and the offense must kick off back to the defense from their own fifteen yard line.

On the final play of regulation if the team down is losing by eight points or more they are awarded an "X Point Play" worth however number of points it will take to tie the game

Offsides

Offensive or defensive players who've been drawn offsides can retreat back across the line of scrimmage and re-set while the play continues without penalty, unless they've made contact with an opposing player, in which case play should stop, and a 4-pace penalty assessed (there is no continuation of play or advantage given, as in rugby).

Assuming no contact, if the offsides player does not re-set, either an illegal blitz or offensive offsides will be called resulting in an 8-pace penalty and the re-playing of the down (or non-offending team may accept result of the play).

Pass interference

Pass interference is only called if a player is clearly and obviously restrained (held, pushed) from attempting a catch. Unavoidable contact when two or more players are making a simultaneous, bona fide attempt to move toward, catch or bat the pass is NOT pass interference. Additionally, a player unintensionally 'in the way' of a receiver will not be called for pass interference.

As in all codes of football, pass interference is a judgement call.

Spotting the ball

The Line of Scrimmage can be set by players from either team. A standard yellow flag is used to mark the current spot of the ball and the subsequent lines of scrimmage.

Technically the defense is responsible for spotting the ball. This becomes important in 'hurry up' play.

Not moving the flag to the new spot in a timely manner is a delay of game penalty (4 paces, and clock stops).