In announcing gameplay rules and guide for an unprecedented season, the football committee of the Vermont Principals’ Association has ruled against holding a postseason tournament due to the fundamental changes in the 7-on-7 touch format.
The committee “felt that it was more important to have students participate in as many games as possible, rather than focusing on a postseason,” committee chair and Middlebury athletic director Sean Farrell wrote in a state-wide email to coaches and media members on Friday morning.
Last week, the state’s Agency of Education and Department of Health issued guidance for how sports could return during a pandemic while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The Farrell-led football committee spent the last 10 days tweaking a rules proposal and updating the VPA guide.
“I want to start off to say that we are grateful for the opportunity to play any form of football this season, we need to keep this season in perspective, and it is our mission to allow programs to continue to develop players for the future while having fun,” Farrell wrote in the VPA guide. “Now, more than ever, our student-athletes need to have an opportunity to be around their peers in a safe and controlled environment while having fun.”
The key takeaways include:
► Facial coverings are required for players, coaches, officials, staff and spectators.
► The nine-game season will begin on Sept. 26, provided the state has moved to Step 3, and conclude on the Oct. 23-24 weekend. A survey will go out to schools to help with scheduling, which remains a work in progress. Teams will have the chance to play twice a week (Tuesday/Wednesday and Friday/Saturday).
► Instead of a separate linemen game, as originally proposed, the linemen group will play the first and third quarters; the backs and receivers will enter for the second and fourth quarters. Of note, defensive players in the third and fourth quarters who are also offensive linemen can play offensive in the first and second quarters.
► Helmets will be the only protective gear for practices and games. Receivers are encouraged to wear gloves and mouth guards are recommended but not required.
The key rules, gameplay for 7-on-7
► Game duration: Four 15-minute quarters (with a running clock). Time will start after the opening kickoff of each half or when the ball is first snapped from the 30-yard line.
► All offensive plays must be passes. Lateral passes are allowed after a completed catch.
► Teams are allowed to kick off in each half and after a score, but there is no return —this is for development for kickers. Each drive will start at the offensive team’s own 30-yard line.
► Field goal attempts and point-after attempts are allowed but the defense cannot rush or return a blocked kick. A missed try on a field goal is a dead ball, and the opposing team assumes possession at the point of the kick.
► The quarterback is allowed four seconds to throw the ball. The penalty for this infraction is a loss of down.
► No blocking or tackling. Penalties will be enforced.
► A ball carrier or receiver is down when touched with one or both hands. Incidental contact by the defender doesn’t constitute a touch, the defender must actively touch the receiver.
► Fumbles are dead balls at the spot with the last team retaining possession. A muffed snap is a not a fumble.
► Interceptions are live and may be returned.
► Touchdowns count for six points. Point-afters: One point from the 3-yard line; two points from the 10 yard line. Safeties are two points and possession of the ball at the 30-yard line.
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