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How to Play 7-on-7 Football

By Sean McCormick

Originally a segment of practice for quarterbacks, receivers, and the defensive secondary, interest in 7-on-7 football has grown and sparked numerous off-season tournaments and leagues nationwide. Thousands of high school football players are eager to participate in order to work year-round on their gridiron-related skills, and also as another avenue to gain the attention of college recruiters.

Field Dimensions and Rules

The field length for a 7-on-7 game is 45-yards (40-yards if playing AAU), and the standard football field width of 160-feet. The end zone is 10-yards deep. The field is marked off in three equal 15-yard segments. The offense gains a first down when moving the ball past a 15-yard segment. If no first down is made after three downs, the other team gets the ball. Play consists of 30 minute games with a running clock. A touchdown is worth six points. A defensive touchdown can be scored if an interception is returned past the 45-yard line. After a catch, the receiver is considered down when touched by a defender. There is no blocking allowed.


All players must wear a protective mouth guard. The uniform consists of a team jersey with an individual number, and matching shorts/pants. Standard rubber or molded cleats are permitted. Metal cleats are not allowed. Each team is responsible for supplying its own football for offensive series.

When 7-on-7 becomes 7-on-8

Contests involving high school teams during the summer practice session may actually allow a defense to put eight defenders on the field. Why? A defense which utilizes the 33/35 Stack has only three down linemen. The various blitz scheme combinations can not be simulated without having the extra player. 30-Stack teams agree one of the players will be blitzing. In these type contests, the blitzing player will take a few steps toward the QB and drops to a knee, essentially becoming a non-participant in the play. While this helps the defense to practice, it also allows the offense to practice facing a stack defense.

7-on-7 Plays

Plays created for a 7-on-7 game utilize the rules of the game. The 'four second' rule translates into receivers running shorter pass routes. There is also a greater focus on crossing routes, as defenses tend to play more man-to-man pass coverage. Teams with high school connections use 7-on-7 contests as an extension of practice and will run plays which mirror plays which will be run during their football season.

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