Second Time's A Charm: Flag Football Takes Off


Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind has remained adamant that Rim country youth sports offerings should include a coed flag football league.

"Kids can play without worrying about tackling, getting hurt and the heavy gear," he said. "Plus, it's a lot of fun."


The Payson Cardinals of the town-sponsored youth flag football league practiced Friday at Rumsey Park in preparation for season opening games today. During the session, quarterback Clayton Duhameil fielded a snap as teammates Josh Butler (left) and Tyler McMinnemy (right) prepare to run pass routes. Defending is Cody Crisp.

After watching a 2003 proposal to bring the National Football League's youth flag football program, called NFL Flag, to Payson fall by the wayside, Schwind redoubled his efforts to field a league.

Beginning last spring, he and Recreation Specialist, Charlene Hunt, began encouraging players and parents to get involved. During a registration period from July 19 to Sept. 10, enough youngsters, about 90, signed up to form two age divisions -- 6- to 8-years-of-age and 9-to-11-years-of-age.

Originally, plans were to practice on weekdays and play games on weekends.

Schwind and Hunt later learned there was some opposition to playing on Saturdays because it could interfere with family plans.

So, the two nixed the weekend concept and switched to playing games during weekdays.

NFL Flag made its much anticipated debut Monday afternoon in a twin bill on the Rumsey South field where all future games will be played. In the opener, the Chargers played the Cardinals, and in the nightcap the Bills took on the Rams.

Both opening games were in the 9- to 11-year-old division.

Today, the 6- to 7-year-old teams take to the gridiron with the Raiders playing the Vikings in the opener, and the Steelers challenging the Saints in the second game.

Action in the league continues Monday through Thursday until Nov. 18. Games are played at 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

Both age divisions have five teams.

Teams and coaches in the younger age division include: Raiders, Teddy Tomerlin; Vikings, Slade Gibson; Steelers, Glen Galster; Saints, John Woods; and Colts, Will Wearne.

In the older age division the teams and coaches are: Chargers, Darrin Grover; Cardinals, Bill Schwind; Bills, Kevin Kelley; Rams, Mark Sopeland; and Chiefs, Brent Cannon.

For the $25 entry fee, participants in the league received reversible, two-color mesh jerseys that resemble the NFL team they represent.

NFL Flag originated in 1996, when leagues sprung up in towns and cities around the country.

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

The rules

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 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.

The Payson league is a sanctioned member of NFL national program in which games are played on 70-by-30-yard fields.

Town workers have lined a field at the center of the Rumsey South multipurpose field.

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

Where the game differs from a high school passing league is that when the ball changes teams on downs, the team going on offense starts at its 5-yard line. Interceptions are played from the point the ball was intercepted.

In high school, when a team runs out of downs, the opponent takes possession at that point.

In NFL Flag, 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 fields after the first 20 minutes. Games are played to 40 minutes running time. Each team has one 80-second and one 30-second time out 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.

Although running plays are legal, "no running zones" are located 5 yards from each end zone and 5 yards on each side of the midfield to prevent short yardage power running situations.

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

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