Learn Like The Pros In Flag Football

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The National Football League is coming to Payson.

It won't be pro teams like the Cowboys, Bears or Eagles. Rather, it will be NFL Youth Flag Football, co-sponsored by the Payson Parks and Recreation Department.

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With the town of Payson Parks and Recreation department about to sponsor an inaugural NFL flag football program, youngsters are practicing their gridiron techniques. Michael Mack, 12, takes a snap from Logan Ferkol, 13. The two were playing Wednesday morning on the Rim Country Middle School field.

Last fall, sports coordinator Teddy Pettet made an effort to get the inaugural flag football program up and running. Due to the late notice from league officials, there wasn't enough time to register players before the deadline.

"Soccer had started and parents had already made commitments," Parks director Bill Schwind said.

Confident the league could be a success, Schwind is spearheading the drive to make sure this fall's program is a hit.

Since the inception of the game in 1996, leagues have sprung up in towns and cities around the country.

Postseason playoffs are now held and teams can eventually play for national championships.

This year, a regional championship tournament will be Oct. 16 at the Arizona Cardinal Training Facility in Tempe.

Regional champions will advance to the National Tournament of Champions to be played in November in Orlando, Florida.

According to Schwind, one of the attractions of flag football is that players can participate without worrying about tackling and heavy gear.

The league is open to all youths 6 to 14 years old. Once registered, the players will be placed in one of four brackets based on their ages as of Sept. 1, 2004. The A bracket will be made up of 6 to 8 year olds; 9 to 11 year olds will form the B bracket. Both the A and B brackets will be co-ed.

The C brackets will comprise 12- to 14-year-old boys and the D brackets made up of 12- to 14-year-old girls.

Registration for play will begin July 19 and continue until Sept. 10. Sign-up may be completed at Parks and Recreation at Green Valley Park. The fee is $25 per players.

Due to processing time required by the NFL, no late registrations will be accepted, Schwind said.

League play is scheduled to begin Oct. 9 and continue for about six weeks.

"Our initial goal is to practice during the week and play (games) on Saturdays," Schwind said. "But, if we have enough teams, we certainly can play games under the lights (at Rumsey Park)."

Each player will receive an Arizona Cardinal reversible game jersey, flag belts and wristbands.

For more information, call (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.

How the game is played

With NFL youth flag football set to debut this fall, the most asked questions by parents and players is "what are the rules of these games?"

Flag football is the traditional 5-on-5 played without guards and tackles. It's similar to the high school summer passing league games that are played as a part of each team's off-season training program.

Although it is a non-contact game played with minimal equipment, flag football teaches the basic skills of running, passing, receiving and defending.

It is a national program played on 70-by-30-yard fields where participants may run or pass the ball.

Payson Parks and Recreation director Bill Schwind anticipates one field will be lined on both the Rumsey Park north and south multipurpose fields.

After the opening coin toss, teams start on their 5 yard line and have three downs to move the ball past mid-field. Once a team has crossed midfield, it receives a new set of three downs to score.

Where the game differs from high school passing leagues is that when the ball changes possessions, except for pass interceptions, the team starts at its 5 yard line. Interceptions are played from the point the ball was intercepted.

In high school passing leagues, when an offensive team runs out of downs, the defense takes possession at that point.

Offensively, quarterbacks have seven seconds to pass the ball. If the ball has not been released in the time allowed, a whistle is blown and the play is over. The ball is spotted where the quarterback was standing. The quarterback cannot run and all players are eligible receivers. All passes must be forward and beyond the line of scrimmage.

Defenders can rush the quarterback but must be 7 yards from the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Any number of defenders can rush the quarterback.

There can be no laterals or pitches.

Teams change sides of the field after the first 20 minutes. Games are played to 40 minutes running time. Each team has one 80-second and one 30-second timeout per half.

In the scoring format, touchdowns are worth six points. Successful extra point conversions from the 5 yard line are worth one point. Conversions made from the 12 yard line are worth two points.

"No running zones" are located 5 yards from each end zone and 5 yards on each side of midfield to prevent short yardage power running situations.

All penalties will be called by the referee and most are for either five or 10 yards and can include loss of down.

According to NFL Flag Football officials, the purpose of the game is to teach football education and to encourage participation and sportsmanship.

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