Street Football (American) - Main Game - Rules

Rules

Most forms of backyard or street football use ad hoc house rules that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

The teams organize each other at the beginning of the game; if there are no pre-selected teams, a draft is held on the spot from the available players. In the event of an odd number of players, one player will usually serve as an "official quarterback," who plays on offense the whole game and cannot run the ball past the line of scrimmage, or, if more players are on their way, the team who is short handed will automatically draft the newcomer upon arrival. Teams can be identified solely by memory or by the shirts versus skins system; uniforms are rare, and even those that are used are generally low-cost pinnies.

The two teams organize on opposite sides of the field for the kickoff. Because of skill, field size and other issues, this is usually not a kickoff but rather a punt-off or a throw-off. Many versions skip this process and start the offense at a certain point, similar to a touchback in other national leagues.

As in regular American football, each team usually has four downs per series. In order to achieve a series of downs, backyard football requires the team with the ball to complete two passes or reach a certain point on the field. Few games include enough people, or the proper equipment, to run a chain crew to maintain the 10 yard familiar in most organized leagues. These structures encourages passing plays over running, as does the usual lack of offensive and defensive lines. The use of a center is optional, depending on the rules set forth, and other ways to start the play (e.g. the quarterback picking up the ball directly, or holding the ball out prior to starting play, then pulling it back to begin) are often used in lieu of a snap. Play continues until there is a turnover on downs (i.e. the offensive team fails to complete two passes in four downs), an interception occurs, or the team on offense scores a touchdown. Touchdowns are worth 6, 7, or 1 point(s) depending on the rules set out before the game.

Field goals and extra point kicks are nonexistent (streets and backyards have no goal posts), although punts can frequently happen, usually during "4th and 2 completions" situations where the offensive team cannot earn a first down. (In games played on regulation fields, these kicks can be attempted, but only in certain scoring systems.)

In the event a touchdown is scored, the team on offense will normally stay in the end zone in which they had just scored and the other team will go into the main field and field the subsequent kickoff. Thus, until an interception or turnover on downs, both teams defend and attempt to score on the same end zone.

Rules greatly vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, and are customarily set before each game. There can be a rush on the QB depending on the rules set out before the game. Usually if rushes are allowed, there are 2 rules that are commonly applied; Call rush and blitz count. Call rush is the first rule of rushing the QB in street. This is where the defense calls "Blitz" in a loud voice before the offense hikes the ball, signifying that they will rush, but there is also a counter effect with this. The QB can get out of the pocket and run without having to pass or hand off the ball, also the quarterback can call "shotgun" before or after the other team says "blitz" causing the opposite to have to count to 5 or 10 depending on whether or not they called blitz 5 calling "shotgun" adds 5 seconds to the blitz count. The second, and more common, rush QB rule is Mississippi rush (a blitz count), so called because the blitzing player must insert the word "Mississippi" between numbers so as not to allow the player to count ridiculously fast and effectively give the quarterback no time to throw (In Canada the word "steamboat" is generally used instead of Mississippi). Sometimes the two rules are combined, allowing one separate call of "Blitz!" per set of 4 downs. The other option to handle a rush is to use an offensive lineman or center to block any pass rush. A line is rare in street, and the act of a center snapping to a quarterback is completely optional and impossible in 2 on 2. When a center is used, the center is eligible as a receiver. Also the center sneak, wherein the center snaps the ball touching the QB hands but retaining possession and then running is completely legal and honorable in sandlot ball. Most teams that use a line opt for 3 down linemen(1 center and 2 guards). Some organizations that don't require the center to snap the ball to the quarterback only use 2 linemen. Popular plays include going long, the hook, the hook and go, and the down and out. A well practiced pump fake by the QB often accompanies the hook and go.

Conversions after a TD usually aren't applied and they can only be attempted from the 6 (or occasionally 7) point TD system, but if they are, there are several conversion systems, including "single point," "pass-run," yardage and "runback." The single-point is the simplest of the rules, in which any successful conversion is worth one point. Pass run is used in some midget leagues and awards 2 points for a pass and one point for a run. Usually all pass-run conversions are attempted from the 1 or 2 yard line. The second conversion system is the yardage system, similar to that used in the XFL playoffs, the Lingerie Football League, and the Stars Football League. The yardage system is formatted like this: 1 point conversions are attempted from the 1 or 5 yard line, and 2 point conversions are attempted from the 2 or 10 yard line. The runback is the most rare of the conversion rules, and is most often implemented in one-on-one games. In this version, the play does not end once the ball crosses the goal line; instead, the player with the ball must change direction and advance it all the way back to the other end zone for two points.

The game ends when a pre-determined number of touchdowns or points has been scored, or an arbitrary time is reached (for instance, dusk or the start of school).

Penalties are rare and are usually only enforced in the most egregious cases, such as serious injuries or blatant pass interference. Most games use the honor system in lieu of a referee and/or an officiating crew.

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