CO-ED Flag Football Rules
Last Revision – Spring 2016
ONE PAGE VERSION – WHAT EVERYBODY SHOULD READ
This is a “contact minimized” league. Physical contact that is inadvertent or marginal will occur
throughout the game. However, aggressive behavior (e.g. body tackles, dropping of shoulders,
pushing, unintended infractions if habitual, etc.) will result in penalties (including ejections).
1. Number of Players. Teams may field up to 7 players in the Delayed Rush program (7v7 format) and up to 8 players in the No Count program (8v8 format). In both programs, there must be at least 3 female players at all times to avoid penalties.
2. Game Time. Teams will play two 20-minute halves with a running clock. The clock will only stop during time outs, referee conferences, injuries, and the final two minutes of the second half. There will be a Two Minute Warning where the clock stops for all incompletions, plays that run out-of-bounds, and penalties.
3. Scoring. All touchdowns in the recreational and competitive leagues will count as 6-points
regardless of gender play. For the extra point attempt, teams will have the option of scoring 1
extra point from the 5-yard line or 2 extra points from the 10-yard line.
4. Number of Downs. Each team has four attempts (“downs”) to move the ball past the next marker to obtain a First Down or Goal. The number of markers varies on the program format (Delayed Rush programs have one marker and No Count programs have two). First Down occurs when the ball – not the player – crosses the closest marker from where the ball was spotted on the initial First Down. A loss of yardage behind the marker does not reset the number of downs.
a. Delayed Rush – Referees will count “1-one thousand. 2-one thousand. 3-one thousand. 4-one thousand. 5-one thousand. GO!” Quarterbacks cannot cross the line of scrimmage or run with the ball until the referee announces, “GO!” Defensive rushers may not cross the line of scrimmage unless the referee announces, “GO!” or the Quarterback hands off, playactions or laterals the ball to another player behind the line of scrimmage.
b. No Count – Defensive rushers may not line up at the line of scrimmage. Rushers must start 5 yards in front of the line of scrimmage (“buffer zone”) as marked by the referee.
All other defenders may position themselves in the buffer zone. Once the Quarterback
hands off or passes the ball, then all defenders may engage behind the line of
6. Gender Plays. A gender play must occur once in every three consecutive offensive plays. To qualify as a gender play, a female player must function as the quarterback, running back, or
receiver. Violation of the gender rule results in a loss of down and 5-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage. Referees will announce the gender count as either “first open, second open, or
7. Blocking. Players may use their bodies to shield an opposing player (e.g. basketball block) at the line of scrimmage. Blockers must keep their arms at their sides or behind their back. Downfield blocking is not permitted after an attempted pass. Direct blocking (e.g. pushing, body checks, etc.) and illegal blocks result in a 5-yard loss from the line of scrimmage or point of infraction, respectively.
8. Tackles. A player is “tackled” once a flag belt (or any portion of the belt) is pulled. If a flag (or
any portion of the belt) falls off the operative player without any prior contact by a defenseman,
then a one-hand touch will result in a tackle.
9. Possession. Receivers need only one foot in-bounds with clear possession of the ball (no
bobbling) to be considered a catch. If a Receiver is pushed out-of-bounds before possession can be determined, then the receiver will be awarded with the catch.
10. Dead Ball. Play is stopped on all fumbles, dropped laterals, and muffed punts. The ball will be set at the location of the dropped ball, not the original line of scrimmage.
11. Interceptions. Laterals may be intercepted and run back for a touch down. Fumbled laterals are considered a dead ball at the spot of the ball. Extra point attempts cannot be intercepted or
returned for points.
12. Time Outs. Teams have 2 time-outs per game that may be used at any time of the game.
13. Substitutions. Teams may recruit substitutes from other teams during the regular season to satisfy field requirements (e.g. number of females, minimum number of players).
14. Quaterback running. For delayed rush leagues, the quarterback may only cross the line of scrimmage once the defense has crossed it following the 5 second count. In no count leagues the quarterback may cross the line of scrimmage after the snap.
CO-ED Flag Football Rules
Last Revision – Spring 2016
THE LONG VERSION – WHAT EVERY CAPTAIN SHOULD READ
I. BEGINNING OF THE GAME & PLAY FORMAT
a. The beginning of the game will start with a coin flip officiated by a USS referee. In
the absence of a coin flip, a single game of paper-rock-scissors will determine the winner.
b. The winning team may then elect to (1) start as the offense or (2) start as the defense.
The losing team will select which side of the field they want to begin.
c. Teams swap directions at the start of the second half. The team that started the game on
defense will start the second half on offense and vice-versa.
d. There are no kick-offs. Play starts 10 yards from the designated goal line.
II. TEAM SIZE
a. Players on the field.
i. Delayed Rush program. Teams will consist of 7 players per side (at least 3
females) for both offense and defense.
ii. No Count program. Teams will consist of 8 players per side (at least 3 females)
for both offense and defense.
b. Teams may have as many players as they would like on their team roster. There is no
maximum limit to the amount of females that can be on the field at any given time.
c. If a team substitutes players during the game, they must do so from the same sideline the
entire game. Eligible receivers must be on the playing field before the cadence is started.
III. PLAYING FIELD
a. Field Dimensions
i. Delayed Rush program – The field is approximately 60 yards long and 30 yards
wide. The midfield marker (First Down Cone) is placed at the 30-yard line on
either side of the field.
ii. No Count program – The field is approximately 75 yards long and 30 yards wide.
There are two First Down markers placed at 25-yard intervals.
b. The End Zone is placed on either end of the field and is 10 yards deep and 30 yards
c. Receivers intentionally leaving the field of play are ineligible to receive a pass if they are
the first person to touch the ball (i.e. – illegal touching). This includes the back of the end
d. Receivers need only one foot in bounds for a reception. If a referee determines that a
receiver would be able to legally catch a pass, but was pushed out of bounds by a
defender while in the air, a catch will be awarded.
a. DC Fray will set up the fields (cones and markers) and provide flag belts for all
i. Recreational leagues will often use flag belts that include two flags on the side
and one flag on the back. These flag belts can be removed by pulling a flag or
any portion of the belt.
ii. Competitive leagues will often use “pop off” flags that can only be removed by
pulling off the flag. Flags cannot be pulled by grabbing the belt and may result in
a illegal contact violation.
b. Teams will provide their own leather-bound football for use during their offensive series
only. The specific size of the football is at the discretion of each team but must be shared
with the opposing team, if requested. However, no team may use NERF balls, rubber
footballs, foam footballs, or any football deemed by the referee to be excessively small or
a. Teams will have until 10 minutes past the designated start time to field a legal team.
b. Shorthanded teams may play a legal game with a minimum of 5 players, with at least 2 of
them being females. Teams fielding less than 5 players or without at least 2 women will
receive a forfeit. Exception: Teams may play a “legal game” with less than 5 players or
less than 2 females with the opposing team’s consent. Teams who agree to play an
opponent under these conditions will lose the option of receiving an automatic forfeit win.
c. Teams may substitute players from other teams during the regular season in order to
field a full team. The use of non-roster players will not be allowed during playoffs, and
roster checks WILL be enforced.
a. Play will be divided into two (2) 20-minute halves. Teams flip flop direction at the start of
the second half. The team that started the game on defense will start the second half on
b. The assistant referee will keep the official game clock.
c. The end of either half cannot end on a defensive penalty.
d. Teams will have 2 time-outs per game that may be used at any time during any half.
e. There will be a constantly running clock except during the final 2 minutes of the second
i. First Half Comment
1. If a team scores a touchdown during the final minute of the first half, then
the opposing team must call a timeout before the extra point attempt to
stop the game clock during the extra point attempt. The clock will
resume once the opposing team snaps the ball on the offensive series
falling the extra point attempt.
ii. Two-Minute Warning Scenario
1. The clock does not stop for a 2-Minute Warning until there is a dead ball
situation that causes the clock to stop thereafter.
2. During the first 38 minutes, the clock runs continuously with the
exception of timeouts, injuries, outside interruptions, and referee
discussions. The clock does not stop on any first downs or fumbles. The
clock will run during all extra-point conversions, except for the final two
minutes of the game.
3. During the final 2 minutes of the game, the referee shall stop the game
a. An incomplete pass is thrown;
b. A player ends a play by going out of bounds;
c. Either team scores (clock will resume once the opposing team
snaps the ball on the offensive series following the PAT attempt);
d. Change of possession;
e. A penalty occurs in which yards must be marked off;
f. A team calls a time out.
g. If a team is up by 21 points or more, the clock runs continuously during the last two
minutes of play.
h. For the entire game, the offensive team has approximately 30 seconds to snap the ball
once the ball has been spotted. If the head referee feels that this is being taking
advantage of (after a warning) the referee will then stop the clock, and penalize the
offensive team 5-yard for a delay of game.
a. Delayed Rush – No Quarterback or defensive player may cross the line of scrimmage
until the Referee announces, “GO!”
i. Referees will count “1-one thousand. 2-one thousand. 3-one thousand. 4-one
thousand. 5-one thousand. GO!” In recreational leagues, this is approximately 5
seconds. In competitive leagues, the count is approximately 3 seconds.
ii. Quarterbacks may hand off the ball at any time but the Quarterback cannot cross
the line of scrimmage or run with the ball until the referee announces, “GO!” AND the defense has crossed the line of scrimmage.
iii. Defensive rushers may not cross the line of scrimmage unless the referee
announces, “GO!” or the Quarterback hands off, playactions or laterals the ball to another
player behind the line of scrimmage.
b. No Count – All offensive and non-rushing defensive players may cross the line of
scrimmage immediately after the snap.
i. Defensive rushers may not line up at the line of scrimmage. Rushers must line
up at least 5 yards in front of the line of scrimmage (“buffer zone”), as marked by
ii. All other defenders who are not rushing may position themselves inside the
iii. Once the Quarterback hands off or passes the ball, then all defenders may
engage behind the line of scrimmage.
VIII. NO PHYSICAL CONTACT AT THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE OR DOWNFIELD
a. Players acting as offensive lineman must have hands behind their back or at their side
when protecting their quarterback from pursuing defensive rushers. There is no contact
permitted at or behind the line of scrimmage. Offensive lineman can position their body in
an attempt to the direct the rushers away from a particular area/player, but they may not
physically direct them.
b. Instances where excessive physical contact occurs, whether at the line of scrimmage or
downfield, yet which do not adhere to specific penalties listed on the penalty spreadsheet
(i.e. excessive elbowing, spearing, low blows, generally reckless play, etc.) will be
evaluated by referees and addressed accordingly as Unnecessary Roughness or
Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties.
c. Player safety comes first and overly aggressive or physical play will be penalized.
IX. FIRST DOWNS
a. Each team shall have 4 downs to either score or earn another first down. First downs are
earned each time the ball reaches the next cone from where the ball was originally
spotted on the first down.
i. Delayed Rush Format – there is only one First Down marker located at the
midfield. Assuming there are no penalties and teams cross each first down
marker, teams have up to 8 attempts to score a touchdown.
ii. No Count Format – there are two First Down markers located 25 yards apart.
Assuming there are no penalties and teams cross each first down marker, teams
have up to 12 attempts to score a touchdown.
b. If a team fails to score or earn a first down, possession will turned over to the other team
at the previous spot of the ball. Offensive teams may elect to punt on any down.
X. CONTINUANCE OF PLAY
a. Play shall continue until:
i. Ball-carrier has flag pulled off by an opponent;
ii. Ball-carrier leaves the field of play;
iii. Ball-carrier scores;
iv. Ball touches the ground as a result of a fumble, punt, or incomplete pass (the ball
is not an extension of the arm. Therefore, if the ball is pinned between the ground
and the ball-carrier’s hand, the play is dead as a fumble); or,
v. Ball-Carrier’s knee touches the ground.
b. If a flag belt falls off the player without any prior contact with a defensive player, then a
one-hand touch will be tantamount to a tackle.
c. Diving and spinning are permitted as long as it is performed in a safe and sportsmanlike
manner. Offensive players may dive/spin to further advance the ball as long as they do
not initiate contact before, during, or after their maneuver. Physical contact which is the
result of a dive or spin will be enforced as an “Illegal Contact – Offense” penalty. When
dives or spins occur, the ball will be spotted at the position of the ball when the ball
carrier’s elbow/knee/rear touches the ground, or when the ball touches the ground.
XI. SPOT OF THE BALL
a. The ball will be spotted where the ball is at the time the ball carrier has his or her flag
pulled off by opponent.
b. If the ball crosses the plane of the goal line before the ball carrier’s flag is pulled, it will
result in a touchdown (ball extension).
c. If the ball hits the ground on the snap for either a pass or running play, the play is “dead”,
the ball is spotted where it hit the ground, and it is a loss of down (i.e. if it was 1st down
during the bad snap, it is now 2nd down).
a. A punt must be openly declared to a referee and cannot be faked or kicked onsides in
hopes to recover.
b. All punts are “free” punts meaning the kicking team does not need not snap the ball
during a punt.
c. Punts must be kicked and cannot be thrown.
d. Punts are “open” plays, and have no FGP requirement. There is no minimum number of
players required on the line of scrimmage during a punt. Blocking at the line of
scrimmage and attempts to block the punt are permitted.
e. Downfield blocking is allowed; however standard line of scrimmage blocking rules apply
(no contact, hands at your sides/behind you back) and will be strictly enforced.
f. The kicking team may not cross the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
g. If the ball comes into contact with the ground after it has been punted, it is a dead ball,
and will be spotted at the point where it hit the ground. A punt through the end zone will
be spotted 10 yards away from the goal line. If a player drops the ball in the end zone,
the ball will be spotted 10 yards away from the goal line and is NOT counted as a safety.
h. Referees will use their best discretion in spotting all punts which sail out of bounds.
Muffed punt returns are dead balls at the spot of the muffed punt, and may not be
returned or recovered. Laterals during punt returns are legal, but may be intercepted by
the kicking team and returned for a touchdown.
a. A change of possession can only occur on an interception of a forward pass or a lateral.
b. A fumble is not a turnover. The ball is dead at the point of the fumble and the offense
c. A lateral is not a forward pass and can be picked off in mid-air. A picked off lateral will
result in a change of possession, and can be returned for a touchdown.
d. Loss of down penalties, which occur on 4th down, will result in change of possession.
a. Touchdowns in the recreational and competitive leagues will count as 6-points regardless
of gender play.
i. Social League Exception – A gender bonus of one extra point will be applied
during gender play. Plays that involve female receivers, female running backs,
and female Quarterbacks will earn 7-points instead of 6 points.
b. For the extra point attempt, teams will have the option of scoring 1 extra point from the 5-
yard line or 2 extra points from the 10-yard line.
i. Social League Exception – A gender bonus of one extra point will be applied
during gender play. Plays that involve female receivers, female running backs,
and female Quarterbacks will earn 2-points from a 5-yard attempt and 3-points
from a 10-yard attempt instead of 1 point and 2 points, respectively.
c. Safties. Teams earn two points if they pull the flag of an offensive Quarterback or ball
carrier while the offensive player is still in his or her end zone. A successful safety play
returns the ball back to the defensive team’s 10-yard line, in which they become the
d. Games ending in a tie score will be recorded as tie games during regular season play.
Please refer to the OVERTIME section for ties during the playoffs.
XV. GENDER PLAY RULES (a.k.a. Female Intented Play SPECIFICS)
a. There is no maximum limit to the amount of females allowed on the field. To ensure coed
participation, a penalty will ensue if the offensive team fails to use a female as an
“operative player” within 3 consecutive downs.
b. An Operative Player is defined as a player who:
i. Catches the ball downfield;
ii. Fails to catch a ball downfield as the “intended” receiver (determined by referee);
iii. Runs the ball as a running back (without handing the ball off or lateralling the
ball), even if she does not cross the line of scrimmage;
iv. Receives the snap as the Quarterback and throws the ball forward towards the
line of scrimmage. The ball does not have to cross line of scrimmage but any
male receiver must be in front of the line of scrimmage.
v. Receives the ball behind the line of scrimmage, and attempts to throw the ball
down field to another player (a.k.a. “double pass” play); or,
vi. Receives the snap and immediately spikes the ball at her feet in order to stop the
clock ONLY in the last 2 minutes.
c. An Operative Player is NOT defined as a player who:
i. Hands off the football to another player behind the line of scrimmage;
ii. Snaps the ball into play to another player;
iii. Receives a hand-off, only to return the ball to a male before crossing the line of
iv. Receives a downfield lateral, past the line of scrimmage, as part of an “option”
d. Examples of acceptable and unacceptable FIP scenarios include:
i. A forward pass deflected by a male and caught by a female is an acceptable
ii. A forward pass intended for a female (in the eyes of the referee) that is deflected
(regardless of gender) and caught by a male is an acceptable FIP.
iii. A pass thrown by a male, caught by a male, immediately pitched to a female
(“the hook and ladder”) is an unacceptable FIP – no matter how far the female
advances with the ball after the pitch.
iv. A pass intentionally grounded by a female in the last 2 minutes of the second half
in order to stop the clock is an acceptable FIP.
v. If a female pitches the ball to a male behind the line of scrimmage, it will be an
vi. If a female pitches the ball to a male behind the line of scrimmage and he then
throws it to another female it will count as an acceptable FIP.
vii. Note: Unexpected examples of FGP attempts may occur throughout the flag
football season that are not listed in the examples above. In this scenario, a
referee timeout will occur, and the DC Fray referees will do their best to make a
fair and balanced decision based on what they saw.
e. The penalty for running 3 consecutive plays without a female as an Operative Player will
be loss of downs (i.e. if it was 1st down during the penalty, it is now 2nd down), a 5-yard
penalty for ‘Gender Play Violation’, and the FIP requirement is carried over to the next
f. The DC Fray referee will notify teams of each down, and FIP status, before the
ball is snapped. Teams may ask the referee what the down and FIP status is, before the
ball is snapped, if needed.
g. There are no FIP requirements on extra points and punts.
a. PLAYOFF GAMES – Playoffs will be the week after the last week of regular season and
will be single elimination. DC Fray will determine how many teams make playoffs based on league logistics. Playoff games will follow the same format as the regular
season games. If teams are tied at the end of regulation, an overtime period will be
b. OVERTIME – The beginning of overtime will start with a coin flip from with the referee
with the winning team choosing offense or defense, (there is no option to decline or
defer). The losing team will decide which end zone to use.
i. Teams will attempt to score in the same end zone. Each team will then have 4
downs to score from the closest First Down market near the end zone. In
Delayed Rush leagues, this is 30 yards. In No Count leagues, this is 25 yards.
ii. If a team scores, they will have the opportunity to go for one or two on the
conversion play. A female must be used once within the first three plays of the
offense’s overtime series. An interception will result in a team losing its
possession, and cannot be returned for a touchdown.
iii. The game will be decided when one team scores more points in the rotation. No
1st downs will be awarded except in the case of an excessive penalty. If the
score is still tied after two complete overtime periods, each team must attempt a
2-point conversion after they score a touchdown. From this point on all
subsequent overtime periods will continue with each team attempting a 2-point
conversion after they score a touchdown.
A. Historical Comments
- Any player who deliberately attempts to knock the ball out of the quarterbacks arm, or hits the arm of the quarterback during any portion of the quarterback’s throwing motion will receive a “Defensive Unnecessary Roughness” penalty. This includes contact that is made on the quarterback’s follow through.
- The QB may NOT snap the ball to him/herself. If the QB does snap to him/herself, play will stop immediately and it will result in a 5-yd penalty and repeat the down.
- If the QB crosses the line of scrimmage and then throws a forward pass the defense can either decline the penalty or accept a 5-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage and loss of down (i.e. if it was 1st down during the penalty, it is now 2nd down).
- The QB may not be in motion and then receive the snap – this will result in a 5 yard penalty and repeat of down.
- If the player calling the cadence does not receive the snap, the play will not stand and will result in a 5 pace/yard penalty (False Start – Offense) and repeat of the down.
- Fighting (verbal or physical) is not allowed and will NOT be tolerated. All parties involved in fighting will be subject to ejection from the game at the DC Fray referee’s discretion and subject to suspensions.
- Sportsmanlike Conduct Warnings:
- Unsportsmanlike conduct includes excessive taunting, name-calling, yelling/cursing at teammates, yelling/cursing at the opposing players, or yelling/cursing at the referees, or anything deemed “unsportsmanlike” by the DC Fray referees.
- 1st offense – Address a warning against the team and/or player involved.
- 2nd offense – Team loses the specific player for the remainder of the game.
- 3rd offense – Team forfeits the the game.
- 4th offense – If a team/player has three or more offenses in one game, more severe punishments such as multiple game suspensions or an expulsion from the remainder of the season may be enforced. No refunds are issues to players who are suspended from games due to Unsportsmanlike offenses.