Passing league, or 7-on-7, football has enjoyed rapid growth the past two decades with high schools of all enrollment sizes participating in a sport similar to touch football, once played only on streets and in schoolyards.
Today, coaches of the nearly one million high school students who play contact football encourage their charges to participate in passing leagues as a fun, competitive and mostly non-contact way to play football.
Usually organized by high school coaches, passing leagues provide aspiring players with the structure and organization they need to develop their gridiron skills.
In Payson, coach Byron Quinlan has organized passing league games for his players, taking teams several times this summer to Valley high schools for tournaments.
Each evening of the upcoming six-team Payson Football Camp, players will hone their skills in varsity and underclass passing league competition.
All coaches have their personal choice of how to conduct passing league games, but a common denominator is that the sport is just what it’s named — all passing.
Some coaches choose to run the exact same passing offense in the summer as used during the regular season.
For example, a Wing T-oriented coach would run bootlegs, waggles, blunt passes, rollouts, jet sweep passes and quarterback three- and five-step drops with receivers running passing tree routes.
Ditto in the fall.
There are other coaches who scheme exotic formations, plays and strategies they use only during the summer passing games.
Those out of the ordinary methods can include empty backfields, extreme spread formations, shotgun, wildcat, trips (three receiver sides), double tights and Hail Mary.
Once the summer is over, some of that offense is never run again.
Just as coaches don’t always agree on passing league strategies, they often disagree on how to conduct the 7-on-7 games.
In varsity play, some coaches use a center, but he is not counted as one of the seven eligible receivers. He is, however, one of three offensive players to be on the line of scrimmage.
After a play is called in the huddle and the quarterback receives the snap, he has four seconds to release the ball or it is blown dead.
There is no rushing the quarterback or crossing the line of scrimmage until the ball is thrown.
Defenders can down an offensive player with one hand touch below the neck.
Also, the game is usually played on a 40-yard-field plus end zone and 30 minutes in length on a running clock.
All possessions start at the 40-yard line and only one first down per series is possible, achieved when reaching the 20-yard line within four downs.
No matter where the defense stops the offense, all possessions start at the 40-yard-line.
While those rules are some of the basics, coaches often change the standards to fit their teams’ needs.
While the game was intended to be non-contact, there have been over the years many instances of flagrant contact, blocking, holding and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Those may be cause for ejection from the game.
Most passing league games do not draw large crowds, but spectators are welcome to attend those played during the evening hours at the Payson Football Camp July 18 to July 22.
Kickoff will be about 6:30 p.m. at the high school and Rumsey Park.
So, football junkies eager for the smell of pigskin to permeate the air, passing league might be just the fix needed.