Flag Football Rules

Mesa Youth Sports Flag Football is a 5-on-5 (sometimes 6-on-6) game filled with fun and action. In this game, the offensive team plays for a first down at midfield and a touchdown in the end zone. Running and passing plays are allowed, although there are “no-running zones” at midfield and near each goal line. The defensive team covers receivers, rushes the passer and grabs flags to make “tackles.”


Cleats are allowed, except for metal spikes. Inspections must be made. All players must wear a protective mouthpiece; there are no exceptions.  Team jerseys are supplied and need to be tucked in if they hang below the waist.  Shorts color may vary but needs to be different than your team flag color.

The Basics

A coin toss determines first possession. The offensive team takes possession of the ball at its 5-yard line and has three plays to cross midfield. Once a team crosses midfield, it has three plays to score a touchdown. If the offense fails to score, the ball changes possession and the new offensive team takes over on its 5-yard line. If the offensive team fails to cross midfield, possession of the ball changes and the opposition starts its drive from its 5-yard line. All possession changes, except interceptions, start on the offense’s 5-yard line. Teams change sides after the first 20 minutes. Possession changes to loser of coin toss and the clock does not stop. There are no kickoffs.  Run blocking is NOT allowed. Teams must field a minimum of four players at all times.


Games are played in two 20-minute halves with a 5-minute half time.  Each team gets one timeout per half and they can save them both for the second half.  The clock will only stop if the timeout is called within the last two minutes of a half.

If the score is tied at the end of 40 minutes, the game is over and recorded as a tie.  Overtime will only occur during the playoffs.  In overtime, teams will choose to go for 1 point from the 5 yard line or 2 points from the 12 yard line in overtime.  Teams must go the the same number of points per round (ie. if the first team chooses to go for 2, the 2nd team must go for 2, as well).

The team has 30 seconds to snap the ball once it is spotted. Teams will receive one warning before a delay-of-game penalty is enforced.  Officials can stop the clock at their discretion.

During the last two minutes of each half, the clock will stop on incomplete passes and out of bounds.



6 points

Extra point:

1 point (played from 5-yard line – pass only) or 2 points (played from 12-yard line – pass or run)

*Extra points may be intercepted and returned for the same value points as were attempted by offense.


2 points


The quarterback may scramble, but may not completely pass the line of scrimmage. Only direct handoffs behind the line of scrimmage are permitted, no pitches. Offense may use multiple handoffs.  There are “pass-only zones” located five yards before the end zone and five yards before the first-down midline.  These zones are designed to avoid short-yardage, power-running situations which may injure players.

The player who takes the handoff can elect to throw or run with the ball but must be behind the line of scrimmage if throwing. Once the ball has been handed off, all defensive players are eligible to rush. Spinning is allowed, but players cannot leave their feet to avoid a defensive player (no diving, jumping or hurdling). The ball is spotted where the ball carrier’s feet are when the flag is pulled, not where the ball is. Absolutely NO laterals or pitches of any kind are allowed.


All players are eligible to receive passes (including the quarterback if the ball has been handed off behind the line of scrimmage).  Only one player is allowed in motion at a time.  A player must have at least one foot inbounds when making a reception.


Forward passes must be caught BEYOND the line of scrimmage.  No passes to receivers who are behind the line of scrimmage.

Dead Balls

The ball must be snapped between the legs, not off to one side, to start play. Substitutions may be made on any dead ball.

Play is ruled “dead” when:

  • Ball carrier’s flag is pulled
  • Ball carrier steps out of bounds
  • Touchdown or safety is scored
  • Ball carrier’s knee, bottom or back hits the ground
  • Ball carrier’s flag falls out
  • Ball is fumbled

Note: There are no fumbles. The ball is spotted where the ball was lost.

Rushing the Quarterback

All players who rush the passer must be behind the seven-yard blitz cone.  The referee will place the cone before the ball is snapped.  Any number of players can rush the quarterback. Players not rushing the quarterback may defend on the line of scrimmage.

Once the ball is handed off, the seven-yard rule no longer is in effect, and all defenders may go beyond the line of scrimmage. Remember, no blocking or tackling is allowed.  Offensive players may not get in the way of the blitzer.


Interceptions may be returned for a touchdown.  This includes on extra points, except the points awarded will match the attempted points (ie. if the offense was going for 2 pts and the ball was intercepted and returned to the other endzone, the defense gets 2 points).


If the referee witnesses any acts of tackling, elbowing, cheap shots, blocking or any unsportsmanlike act, the game will be stopped and the player will be ejected from the game. FOUL PLAY WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

Trash talking is illegal. Officials have the right to determine offensive language. (Trash talk is talk that may be offensive to officials, opposing players, teams or spectators.) If trash talking occurs, the referee will give one warning. If it continues, the player or players will be ejected from the game.


All penalties will be called by the referee.


  • Offsides – Five yards and automatic first down
  • Interference – 10 yards and automatic first down
  • Illegal contact (holding, blocking, etc.) – 10 yards and automatic first down
  • Illegal FLAG pull (before receiver has ball) – 10 yards and automatic first down
  • Illegal rushing (starting rush from inside 7-yard marker) – 10 yards and automatic first down


  • Illegal motion (more than one person moving, false start, etc.) – Five yards and loss of down
  • Illegal forward pass (pass thrown behind line of scrimmage) – Five yards and loss of down
  • Offensive pass interference (illegal pick play, pushing off/away defender) – 10 yards and loss of down
  • Flag guarding – 10 yards (from line of scrimmage) and loss of down
  • Delay of game – Clock stops, 10 yards and loss of down
  • Passing beyond the line of scrimmage (player’s entire body and ball are completely beyond line of scrimmage) – Five yards and loss of down

Referees determine incidental contact that may result from normal run of play. All penalties will be assessed from the line of scrimmage. Only the team captain may ask the referee questions about rule clarification and interpretations. Players cannot question judgment calls. Games cannot end on a defensive penalty unless the offense declines it.