Flag Football

Revised – September 5, 2019
These rules are for clarification or to note exceptions to CIF rules.
CIF rules apply to any situation not included here.


The game of flag football is played similar to regulation football, with the exception that instead of the ball carrier being tackled, his flag belt is removed by a defensive player.


  1. The field must be lined. Cones are a supplement to lines, not a replacement for lines.
  2. The regulation dimensions are:
    • Minimum: 60 yards x 30 yards with 10 yard end zones (80 yards total). These fields will have three first down zones that measure 20 yards each.
    • Maximum: 70 yards x 40 yards, with 10 yard end zones (90 yards total). These fields will have two first down zones that measure 20 yards each and a middle zone that measures 30 yards.


  1. Elementary and Junior High divisions will consist of eight players. Any combination of players for the line or backfield may be used. All players are eligible for hand-offs or passes.
  2. Substitutions are unlimited. Once a player is in the game they must remain for at least one play. Penalty = 5 yds.


  1. There will be four quarters that are 10 minutes for elementary, 12 minutes for junior high, with a 5 minute halftime and 1 minute between quarters. There is no NFL-style two minute warning.
  2. Until the final two minutes of the game, the clock shall stop only for:
    • Requested time outs.
    • After the PAT attempt. Not immediately after the touchdown.
    • After all touchdowns. The clock will start again when the ball is received or touched after the kickoff.
    • After a time out, the clock will start when the ball is snapped.
  3. During the last two minutes of the game: The clock shall stop on an incomplete pass, a run out of bounds, penalty, time-out, first down, and immediately after any scoring play. The clock will start again when the ball is snapped, except for first downs. For first downs, the clock will start again when the official places the ball and is ready for play. The clock will not run during PAT attempts. The clock will not stop due only to a fumble during any portion of the game.
  4. Each team shall be allowed 4 time-outs per game. Each time out shall be one minute in duration. Coaches are permitted to talk to the entire team during time-outs. Teams must be ready for play immediately at the end of the 1 minute time-out.


All points are the same, regardless of a pass or a run.

  • Touchdown
    • 6 points
  • Safety 
    • 2 points (see rule #34 for after-safety procedure)
  • Try after touchdown
    • From 5 yards
      • 2 points
    • From 3 yards
      • 1 point


  1. A coin toss will be conducted with team captains prior to the game. The winner of the coin toss must choose one of the following. The other team gets to choose one of the remaining two choices.
    • To kickoff or receive.
    • Which goal line to defend.
    • Defer choice to second half.
  2. Prior to the second half, the captain of the team that lost the coin toss is now given his choice, unless the team winning the toss chose to defer. The opponent is granted the other choice.
  3. After each quarter the teams shall change goals. Team possession, the number of down, the relative position of the ball and the first down line will remain the same.


  1. Each player must have jerseys of the same color and shorts/pants of the same color. Jerseys must be tucked in or hemmed above the belt. All uniforms must have numbers, at least 4” high, on both the front and back. Any player not in a full, complete uniform may not play. No exceptions!
  2. All team members must wear a flag belt of a color that contrasts the uniform shorts. Blue and black are not considered contrasting colors. The official will have the authority to determine if flags are of a contrasting color and if a team needs to change their flags.
  3. The official ball shall be junior size for all elementary divisions and Intermediate size (CF 7) for all Junior High divisions. Any brand may be used as long as it is of good quality and inflated as specified by the manufacturer.
  4. Equipment such as shoulder pads, helmets, thigh pads, kidney pads, and forearm pads are prohibited. Knee pads are permissible. Mouthguards/mouthpieces are required. No cast of any kind (even if padded will be allowed on the playing field. Any player without a mouthguard or with a cast of any kind may not play. No exceptions!
  5. All players must wear shoes. Baseball shoes with rubber cleats are permissible. No metal or detachable cleats are permissible.
  6. Jewelry may not be worn. It is not acceptable to place tape over jewelry. Players wearing any jewelry (covered or not) may not participate. No exceptions!


  1. Ball carriers are not permitted to run within one yard of where the ball was spotted, unless the ball has first gone outside the tackle box or is a reverse play. Direct runs up the middle, specifically including hand offs, QB draws, etc, are illegal. Penalty = 5 yards and loss of down. Officials are required to place beanbags 1 yard to each side of the ball.
  2. The ball carrier may spin only one time per defender. Penalty = 5 yards.
  3. The ball carrier may not butt or ram a defender. Penalty = 10 yards from infraction.
  4. Straight-arming is prohibited. Penalty = 10 yards.
  5. A ball carrier may not hurdle or dive. Penalty = 5 yds.
  6. When a flag is pulled, the ball is placed where it was possessed in the carrier’s hands.


  1. If any coach, manager, or other non-player in the bench area is ejected, the game is immediately declared a forfeit. If that individual is an adult, they must leave the premises immediately. If the ejected individual is not an adult, they should be moved away from the field, under the supervision of a responsible adult. The game will not continue, even as a practice game. No exceptions!
  2. No hideouts are permitted. All players must start from the huddle. Penalty = Unsporting conduct – 15 yards and loss of down.


  1. A fumbled ball that touches the ground is dead and cannot be advanced. Unless on 4th down, the offense always retains possession. The clock never stops due only to a fumble.
  2. A ball that is snapped but not caught is marked at the point where it touches the ground.
  3. All kickoffs and punts entering the end zone or intercepted passes that are caught in the end zone are touchbacks and can not be advanced.
  4. After all touchbacks, the ball shall be placed on the 20 yard line.


  1. After three downs a team must declare to the official whether they will punt or make an attempt to gain a first down. Fake punts are not allowed. Rushing the punter is not allowed. The receiving team must have three players on the line of scrimmage. Players other than the punter may not move until the ball has been kicked. Penalty = 5 yards.
  2. The ball must be punted (not just snapped) within the 30 second time limit from when the official places the ball on the ground ready for play. Penalty = 5 yards.
  3. If the offensive team fails to advance the ball to the next zone line in four downs, they shall lose possession of the ball at the point where it was declared dead on fourth down.


  1. Flag belts MUST be manufactured by Triple Threat, or have the same style clip. They must be the style with a detachable belt containing three 16” flags that are two inches wide. Velcro belts are prohibited. If the official believes the flag should be replaced, the player must do so. If a team does not have enough proper belts for each player on the field, the game will be declared a forfeit for standings purposes. The complete game will then be played.
  2. An offensive player may not use his hands or any part of the arm to prevent a defensive player from removing his flags. Penalty = 5 yards from the infraction.
  3. Any player who gains possession of the ball while not wearing a flag belt will be allowed to maintain possession of the ball but the ball will be down at the spot it was received.
  4. A player who loses his flags while in possession of the ball will be down at the spot where he lost his flag.
  5. Any flag pulled prior to a player receiving the ball will be allowed to continue play. Defenders must then touch the player with two hands below the waist. Passes intended for this receiver will be considered pass interference. Penalty = 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and automatic first down.
  6. It shall be a foul to tackle, hack, straight arm, trip, hold, or rough up another player. Officials must particularly vigilant in preventing the holding of the ball carrier’s clothes by the defender. Players twice guilty of breaking this rule shall be immediately disqualified. Penalty = 10 yards from point of foul or from line of scrimmage if the infraction occurs beyond the line.
  7. Defenders shall not impede the progress or “wrap-up” the ball carrier in an attempt to remove a flag. Penalty = 10 yards from the point of infraction or line of scrimmage (whichever is best for the non-offending team). Players twice guilty of breaking this rule shall be immediately disqualified.
  8. Similar to a touchdown, if any part of the ball is on or over the first down line, it is a first down.


  1. All kickoffs shall be from the 20 yard line on the 60 yard field, or from the 30 yard line on a 70 yard field.
  2. The receiving team must be at least 10 yards from the kickoff line. There must be three people on the line of scrimmage.
  3. The ball must travel 10 yards for the ball to be in play and a free ball.
  4. If the kicking team touches the ball before it travels 10 yards, the ball is dead and the receiving team gets a first down where the ball was touched.
  5. Any kick that touches a receiver and then hits the ground is a dead ball. The kicking team cannot recover. The receiving team receives a first down where the ball lands after being touched.
  6. If the kicking team touches the ball after it has gone 10 yards, but before the receiving team touches it, the kicking team will maintain possession at the spot the ball was touched.
  7. If the kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team may accept the ball at the point where it went out, or a re-kick will be taken from 5 yards behind the previous spot.


  1. Blocking must be an effort to impede the opponent. It should never be the intent to push or shove to knock the opponent to the ground.
  2. In an attempt to block an opponent, the arms must stay at the chest. Any contact above the shoulders is illegal. Blocking must only be with the hands, and only between the shoulders and waist. Penalty = 10 yards from the point of illegal contact.
  3. The center may not be blocked until the opponent can see his face.
  4. No high/low blocking.
  5. A blocker’s feet must be in contact with the ground. He may not dive toward another player.
  6. Players may use their hands but may not grab, hold, or shove
  7. Players may not contact an opponent’s head or neck.
  8. Players may not lower their shoulder, whether or not contact is made with an opponent. Violation=15 yd penalty.
  9. It shall be a foul to use a flying block or block below the waist. At least one foot must be on the ground at the time the block is made. Penalty – 15 yards from the point of the infraction or the line of scrimmage (whichever is best for the non-offending team).
  10. Excessive Force: If an official judges that, in spite of proper and legal technique, the aggressiveness of a player seems excessive, malicious, or unsafe, the official shall assess a penalty of 10 yards. Further violations will result in ejection.
  11. A block must be part of a football play. If a block occurs far away from the action, the official shall assess a penalty of 10 yards. Further violations will result in ejection.


  1. Only one forward pass is permitted, but unlimited backward passes are legal. Penalty = loss of down and 5yards.
  2. Pass interference by the offense. Penalty = loss of down and 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
  3. Pass interference by the defense. Penalty = 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and automatic first down.
  4. Defenders may attempt to block or deflect a ball that is thrown; however, any contact with the passer, (before or after the pass) will constitute a penalty. Penalty = 10 y


  1. Ball must be snapped between the legs of the center in a direct and continuous manner to a teammate in the backfield. Center sneaks are not permitted. Penalty = 5 yards.
  2. There is a 30 second time limit to any huddle from the time the ball is placed by the official to the time of the snap. Penalty = 5 yards.
  3. Enforcement for a foul committed by the defense in his own end zone will be first and goal on the 1 yard line for the offense. If the ball is closer than the 1 yard line it will be half the distance to the goal.
  4. Any offensive penalty occurring in its own end zone will be an automatic safety.
  5. No penalty will exceed half the distance to the goal.
  6. No player may move across the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. When this occurs, the play is immediately dead. No player has the opportunity to return to position prior to the snap. Penalty: False Start (offense) or Offsides (defense) = 5 yards.
  7. After a safety, the ball is put in play on the 20 yard line of the team that scored. There is no free-kick and the ball belongs to the team that scored.


  1. Tie games will not play overtime unless it is a playoff game.
  2. Playoff games that end in a tie will be decided with a California tiebreaker. Each team will receive 1st and goal beginning 20 yards from the goal line. Teams that score a touchdown will have the standard PAT option of one or two points. The team that scores the most points (or gains the most yardage, if no scores) will be declared the winner.


  1. One coach on offense and defense.
  2. Once the play starts coach can’t instruct anymore. * 5-yard penalty and loss of down
  3. Coach (on the field) can’t tell players what to do after the ball is snapped. * 5-yard penalty and loss of down


  1. The coach shall not allow a player to continue play in the game if a concussion is suspected. Prior to returning to practice or competition, the athlete must be medically cleared by an appropriate health care professional. Referees will have no duty to police concussions or concussions symptoms.
  2. Visit www.nfhslearn.com for more info about concussions and concussion symptoms.