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Copyright 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006
As a football writer, I talk to one to three youth football coaches a day. One of the things that has surprised and disappointed me is variations in the rules at different youth football programs.
In the two leagues in which I coached youth tackle football, the rules were the same as the high-school rules with only a few modifications like the minimum-play rule. Indeed, we were issued a copy of the national high-school rule book. Of course, when I coached high-school football, the same rule book applied to all teams nationwide (except for Texas and Massachusetts which use college rules).
Here are some of the goofy youth rules I have heard about:
Here is a defense rule from another program
I'm about to start my first year as a head coach of an 3rd & 4th grade team after two years of assisting, and I'm trying to figure out if there is any way to run some of the concepts of your gap-air-mirror defense out of the 4-3 alignment our league requires. Rules say DTs have to be over the OGs, DEs on outside shoulder of TE (or OT or WB if they are the outside guy who isn't split), LBs over the C and OTs. CBs are at LB depth but have to be 3yds outside the DE, S's have to be 8 yards deep. This does simplify offensive coaching since plays don't have to be drawn for multiple defensive formations, but on defense it usually means either two-gap assignments or un-assigned holes. Any thoughts on which positions can best handle two gaps, or which gaps can be left unassigned? Or whether a DB could possibly be brought in quickly enough to fill a gap? Thanks for any suggestions you might have.
[Reed note: Run wedge all day against this idiocy.]
If you have any other goofy rules in your league, please tell me about them so I can add them to this list.
Many of these rules prove the effectiveness of my GAM defensebecause they outlaw parts of it.
Let me discuss one particular set of idiotic rules. One actual youth league requires its lower age group to run the 6-2-2-1 defense. The defensive guards and tackles must be head up on their ofensive counterparts. The two linebackers must stack behind the defensive tackles at 3 yards depth and the safety and corners must be at least seven yards off the line of scrimmage.
Do you know who run the 6-2-2-1 defense nowadays? No one. NFL teams run the 4-3 and 3-4. College teams run the 4-3. High school teams run the 5-2 or 4-4. Call your local high school coaches and ask them which local teams run the 6-2 defense. They can always use a chuckle. Call the national coaching organizations. Tell them you are required to run the 6-2-2-1 defense and you want to know which coach in the U.S. does the best job with that defense so you can go learn from him. They will draw a blank and refer to you to some retired guy.
Would you like to know when the 6-2-2-1 defense was last run? Just about the time the middle-aged idiots who put this youth rule in played high-school football. Drew Tallmans book Directory of Football Defenses has chapters about the Wide-tackle 6 defense and the Split 6 defense. (This 6-2-2-1 is neither of those.) Tallmans book was copyrighted 1971.
Coaches Choice has the biggest catalog of football coaching books. How many 6-man-line defense books do you think they offer? Zero.They have books on the 4-3, 40 nickel, 4-4, and the 46. How about the Human Kinetics catalog? The only defense book they have is the Super Spilt which is a sort of 4-4. How about Syskos catalog? They sell books by all publishers, not just the ones they publish. They have a 3-4 Eagle, a pro 3-4, a 5-2 defense, an Eagle 5-linebacker, a 4-4 stack, a Miami 4-3, a 46 high school, an Ohio State 4-3. No 6-2-2-1.
So youre just going to have to go to the library or a rare book dealer and find one of those old 6-2-2-1 books, right? Wrong. There never was a 6-2-2-1 defense like this one. It exists only in the garbled memories of some middle-aged former high school players. Actually, the wide-tackle six and split 6 are 6-2-2-1 defenses, but they do not stack the linebackers behind the defensive tackles. Nor do they insist that the d-linemen align head up on their offensive counterparts.
The 6-2-2-1 as defined in this youth league rule book is unsound.
For one thing, requiring that defensive linemen always align head up on offensive linemen prohibits the defense from having what all head-up or shaded defensive linemen must have: a large-split rule. A large-split rule says when the offensive line split to your inside exceeds a certain width, align in the gap. Since the defense cannot have a large-split rule, which is unsound, the offense should go to large splitslike eight feet between each offesive lineman. That will put the defensive guards nine feet away from the ball. The defensive tackles and the linebackers stacked behind them will be 19 feet away. Then you just run up the middle all day. Heck, go to 20-foot splits50-foot splits. I guarantee there will be no penetration. The defensive linemen have to go wherever their offensive counterpart goes. Idiot rule book says so.
They will probably outlaw splits wider that two feet or some such the week after you run my 20-foot-split offense. Fine. Put your four biggest studs at center, guards, and QB and run the sneak and blast all day. Whos going to stop you? Not the safety. He has to stay at least seven yards away. Ditto the linebackers. They have to stack behind the tackles who are at least seven feet away.
How about the passing game? The defensive backs are required to have seven-yard cushions. So we run one- or three-step-drop hitches, outs, swings, and slants all day. Essentially, the defense is prohibited by rule from covering such routes.
Shall we put in some routes to go against man pass coverage? Nope. The seven-yard cushions all but force the defense into zone coverage. The idiot offense rules in this league require a double-tight-end line, but we can still flood one side with four receivers.
I could go on, but you get the picture. All defenses, including the sound ones, have weaknesses. If you force a defense to stay in one alignment, a competent offensive coach will simply pick the offensive alignment and play that exploit the weaknesses of the particular defense you are forced to use. Forcing a team to use one defense reveals the gross ignorance of the league officials as to the nature of the game of football.
It is even more ridiculous when the defense they choose is unsound on its face. If a competent coach were on defense in this league, he would be forced to slant his guards inside to the A gaps on every play to stop A-gap plays. No one else is available to guard those gaps. Since they will always slant to the A gaps, why not just line them up there to begin with. Who are they supposed to be fooling lined up head up on the offensive guards as if they might go inside or outside?
Requiring a defense to use only one sound alignment would be itself unsound. Requiring them to use a defense that has never been seen in the history of football and which is unsound on its face is beyond comprehension. (I recommend just using the GAM defense. That is just one defense, but its weak points are the out pass, fade pass, and triple option playall plays which are rare in youth football and very difficult for youth offenses to master. This 6-2-2-1 is weak against common youth plays like the sneak and blast.)
As for ridiculous rules...how about this one. The referees getting together and making a rule during the game. The rule they made up was that our defensive linemen needed to be 5 yards away from the offensive linemen. The reason? Our linemen were controlling the offensive game scheme and the refs thought it was unfair. We complained to the director, but were told that the refs knew/understood the game better than he did and it was a fair call.
n) Coaches shall not teach below-the-waist blocking (i.e., crawl block, roll block, side block). Penalty for an
illegal block below the waist is 15-yards. Crawl blocking is pretty essential in wing offenses! [these are all legal blocks inside the free blocking zone. The kids will have to execute and defend against them in high school]
r) Each player will play a minimum of 14 plays for teams with 19 or less players. Each player will play a
minimum of 12 plays for teams with 20 or more players. Special teams snaps count toward this number.
The head coach is responsible for ensuring each player will play at least the minimum number of plays
during each game. All exceptions to the minimum play rule must be discussed and agreed to by the head
coach and communicated to the opposing team’s head coach PRIOR to the game. [too many—turns the coach into a guy who gets the kids on an off the ferris wheel every time it stops. No opportunity to coach and no chance to win if the kids in question are weak players. Day care activity period.]
e) All teams will play 9 minute quarters with a recommended halftime of 10 minutes.[normal is well-established at 10 to 12 minute quarters—furthemore, kids below age 17 have lots of stamina. An argument could be made thta the kids should play 15 minute quarters, not nine. Players get tired and cramps and such starting at age 17.]
r) Blitzing is strictly prohibited and will result in a 10-yard penalty. Linebackers and defensive backs must
be a minimum of three yards off the line of scrimmage at the snap. If a defensive player is lined up
yards off the line of scrimmage. If not the formation will be considered a blitz and the team will be
accessed a 10-yard penalty. [If you can’t coach pass pro, legislate it.]
gaps. A defensive lineman who is lined up over the center shall line up one yard away from the line of
scrimmage, in a down position, and counts as a defensive lineman. [This is the allow-runs-up-the-middle Act of 2010] All lower level conferences are not
allowed to line up in the gaps. They shall position themselves either head up or slightly shaded (between
opponents number and shoulder) on or over their offensive line counterparts. Linebackers shall not be
positioned on the line of scrimmage before play starts (min of three yards off), except in goal line
situations (inside the 10-yard line). The maximum number of players on the defensive line shall always be
fourth down situations in which the offense has elected to go for it and not punt and inside the 10-yard
line [unbelievable! Apparently an incompetent offensive coordinator wrote these rules. Why not just prohibit the teams from having a defense?]
i) 2nd and 3rd Grade – maximum number of Defensive lineman is 4 at any time. [Apparenly in this town the 2nd and 3rd graders have college level talent on defense.]
a. 3rd /4th Grade Coaches allowed on field in Huddle – must return to sideline during the play
b. 3rd Grade Punt – Coach has option to “No Kick” on 4th down – Ball turned over 35 yards down
field. [So call it hand ball not football because no one will ever punt.]
i. Kick-off only at beginning of game and at half-time
ii. Kick-off team cannot recover ball (unless by fumble) [Thas the high school, NCAA, and NFL rule already. Why say this?]
iii. Following a Score – Ball is placed on return team’s 30 yard line [excellent return! Way to go!]
d. No Double Reverse in 3rd Grade division [got you with that one did they?]
e. 3rd Grade Defensive line
i. Nose Guard – cannot line up over center on any play [so why is he called a nose guard? Call him a cheek guard or ear guard]
ii. Defensive lineman at or inside the tackles must first engage the offensive lineman with 2
hands before continuing rush [we call this “dancing.” It is a bad grade on a player’s grade sheet. And in the youth league that wrote these rules, they coach it, teach it, and require it!!! Does the local high school coach know what’s going on in this league?]
iii. Maximum of 4 players on defensive line at any time [we heard you the first time. Were you guys drunk when you wrote these rules?]
Ill tell you exactly where these rules came from. Once upon a time, in the league in question, a competent coach had much success using one or more of the outlawed tactics. Opposing coaches tried to counteract those tactics, but were unsuccessful. Then, because they lacked the character to admit they were being out coached, they ran to the board and demanded that the tactic in question be outlawed, claiming the kids of that age cannot deal with that tactic for some unspecified physiological reason. The board, being even less competent at coaching than the crybaby coaches, and being ever vigilant for opportunities to self-righteously proclaim all they are doing for the children, falls for the whining and changes the rule.
The purpose of the heavily modified rule books is to prevent embarrassment to incompetent middle-aged youth-football coaches. But the primary focus of youth sports is supposed to be the kids, not the incompetent, insecure coaches in your league.
One of my readers had a connection to legendary Florida State University head coach Bobby Bowden. That youth coach was also in a league with many mangled rules. He got to call Bowden and ask for advice. After Bowden heard about all the things my reader could not do, he said, Sounds more like day care than coaching.
Unfortunately, there is precedent for this in Little League rules, where because of the nature of the game, those modifications are probably necessary, e.g., no taking a pre-pitch lead below the teenage level. Although it is noteworthy that those mangled rules phase out in Little League. They typically do not in youth football. There is no reason why youth-football players should use different rules than high school and there are several reasons why they should use the exact same rules.
Most likely, the incompetent coaches who got the rule put in place are long since gone and no current board members or coaches even remember why it was put in. But it stays in the books forever and, as a result, the kids and coaches are forced to play some mangled version of football. This permanently prevents them from playing against teams in other leagues because they feel their kids will be at a disadvantage. It also reduces the benefit local high schools get from having youth feeder programs because the players coming out of the mangled youth program are like teenaged bicycle riders who have never been allowed to ride a bike without trainer wheels.
The adults in these leagues are constantly engaged in political battles for head coaching jobs and such so they are loathe to spend any of their political capital on issus like restoring normal rules. Consequently, there is a ratchet effect. Once a stupid rule is adopted, it stays forever because no one wants to risk becoming unpopular by challenging it. Like welfare recipients, the coaches lose confidence in their abilities to coach in a league with normal rules and become psychologically dependent on the garbled rules. They are happy with the status quo and fear they might not do as well if the rules were normalized.
Using goofy rules also prevents leagues from hiring quality officials. Professional officials will not learn a new rule book just to get youth-officiating jobs. Doing so would risk them making a youth call in a high-school game. Failure to use high-school officials drastically lowers the quality of the league. Youth-football officials should be the same guys who officiate your local high-school games.
Read my lips. The vast majority of youth-football leagues in the U.S. and overseas use the National Federation of State High School Associations Official High School Rules. All youth football leagues should do so.
Leagues who insist they need to continue these mangled rules claim bad things would happen if they got rid of them. What bad things? And how can anyone claim that with a straight face when we know that thousands of youth leagues are using the high-school rules and having no problems as a result?
If you have some goofy rules and the board refuses to get rid of them, ask your local high-school coaches and officials associations for help persuading the parents in your league. The high-school coaches are typically unaware of such rules modifications and will be aghast at the way in which they will retard the development of kids in what they thought was a compatible feeder program. The officials will generally welcome opportunities to earn more money by officiating youth league games, but they will not want to do so if the rules are screwed up.
Parents are mindful of their kids future plans to play high-school football and will not be pleased to learn that their kids are being handicapped vis a vis kids in other youth-football leagues who will be competing against their kids in high school.
Youth-football coaches desperately need books to help them coach betterfar more so than coaches of other youth sports. But adopting wierd rules makes it impossible for the coaches in the leagues in question to get any books to help them. For example, there are a couple of youth football leagues that require the 5-4-2 defense, but there are no books on that defense.
The most extreme example of this is in flag football. People who run flag leagues feel they can make up rules from scratch. As a consequence, a strange situation has developed.
There are about 1.8 million tackle football players worldwide. There are also hundreds of books on tackle football coaching. There are over 20 million flag football players worldwide. So you would expect there would be thousands of books on coaching flag, right? Wrong. Because every flag league makes up its own rules, flag football is a Tower of Babel. Thre are only two books on the subject: my Coaching Youth Flag Football and Flag Football The Worldwide Game. The latter book appears to have been written by a non-American. He referse to American football repeatedly.
The reason there are so many books on coaching tackle football is because uniform rules make them marketable to two million players. The reason there are so few books on flag football is that a zillion different sets of rules have reduced the market for any one book down to a tiny group that is not worth anyones trouble.
A common rule modification in almost all youth football programs is you get one point for a run or pass PAT and two for a place kick PAT. I agree with that because it is much harder to kick a place kick at that age level.
When I first started to coach, we had a league rule that required each player to get at least four to eight plays per game. The exact number was a function of how many players you had on your roster. Trying to deal with that rule inspired me to invent the whole-game, warp-speed no huddle. It doubles the number of plays thereby halving the percentage of plays in which the minimum-play kids are on the field.
However, in 1996, my league went to a 10-12-14 minimum-play rule. I figured as long as everyone had to play by the same rule, it was not a problem. I was wrong.
My team had to give each player twelve plays. It was almost impossible. After years of being exemplary at getting my subs in, I came within one play of being suspended for failure to do so in two of the five games I coached. (I resigned after five games and that minimum-play rule was one of the reasons.) With a twelve-play minimum, I could literally never get my first string on the field during the entire game. Kids who did not want to be in youth football and who had no intention of ever making the slightest effort at making a tackle or a block were out on the field in significant numbers at all times. Opponents ran through them at will. I felt like the guy at the fair who herds kids off of and onto the ferris wheel.
I am told that some leagues assign kids with different ability levels to A, B, and C teams or minors and majors. In that case, the 12-play minimum is probably not a problem. In our leagues, the only dividing line was age and weight.
Such rules motivate less honest coaches to cheat. They simply treat the lousy players like crap to get them to quit the team. Or they cut them, for their own safety. This happens even though the team in question does not have the more than 35 players required to do any cuts by league rules. In some cases, they literally tell the kids not to come to the tougher games. Our league had to institute a policy of calling the kids from the game to make sure they were sick, although I do not know what a call proves. The kid and his parents have been told to lie or not answer the phone.
Here are two approaches for increasing the number of plays which I like. In one league that a reader of mine coaches in, the second quarter is for the minimum-play players. That means you have minimum-play players against other minimum-play players. When I coached high-school freshmen, and when my son played high school freshman football, they usually had a "fifth quarter" in which the kids who did not get to play in the main game had a scrimmage. They had fun and I thought it was a great illustration to the parents as to why they did not play in the first four quarters. They would run the wrong direction on plays, drop every pass, fumble the hand-offs, and so forth.
This is not problem free. When my oldest son was a freshman, they made him second-string tailback. That was a mistake, but the coaches had a faster little guy whom they liked better. My son was promoted to first string for the last two games of the season and he is now a tailback at Columbia University. When we got to fifth quarter against San Ramon Valley High School, they put in the second string, which included my son at tailback. When he went off tackle for a 50-yard touchdown on the second play, the San Ramon Valley coaches were complaining, "Hey, this is supposed to be second string." Our coaches laughed and said, "That was our second-string tailback. He never played tailback during the game." He started at cornerback and didnt really need to play fifth quarter because he had played the whole game on defense. But the team has to have a tailback and he was the only other one.
I respect the need to give each player some playing time. In my playing career, I got to be both a star and a bench warner. Almost everyone does. The ideal solution is what they do in youth baseball: major and minor league teams so that the ability range on each team and in each league is as narrow as possible.
However, forcing coaches to play players who are awful or uninterested is bad for all concerned. The other players resent the fact that the weak player nullifies all they have worked for because a football team is only as strong as its weakest link. The minimum play-players feel bad about themselves because they know they cannot handle the situation or they know that they are not trying. Coaches are powerfully tempted to circumvent the rule as I explained above. Good coaches and good teams will leave such leagues in frustration. Bad coaches and teams will stay because they figure they can just cheat their way around the rule.
With rare exceptions, eight-year olds are too young to play tackle football with older kids. Eight-year olds are just too dumb to understand the game. They draw repeated procedure penalties. They are generally afraid of the ten-year olds. They foul up the substitutions. I had one who refused to learn the rule that our odd-numbered plays were runs and our even-numbered plays were passes (during which he could not go downfield). He insisted on darting his eyes right and left after the snap on each play to see what his teammates were doing to tell whether he should go downfield or not. Most youth football camps have nine as their lower age limit.
On the other hand, if you do not start your youth football program until age nine, you will lose many kids to soccer. I recommend that you have a youth football program for six to eight-year olds. It could be flag or tackle. The important thing is to prevent soccer from taking all the players at those ages. Then, the best soccer players tend to stay with soccer because they do not know if they would be good at football and they fear losing a year to the other good soccer payers.
Midget (12-14 years old) football is a very mixed bag. I coached that level at the San Ramon Valley T-Birds and there was no problem with the kids. We had a strong group and we were 3-1 during my time with them. We lost the one game in overtime.
But I also coached the San Ramon Bears midgets. What a disaster! We got beat about 30 or 40 to nothing by halftime in most games. The main problem was that many of our opponents were in cities with high schools that had 10th to 12th grades. In those cities, the ninth graders played youth football. In our town, the ninth graders played freshman football. My team was predominantly 7th and 8th graders. We had two ninth graders who had never played football and were using the youth team to see if they liked the sport. Neither ever played football again and one was a great athlete. Our only two close games were with suburban teams that also had freshman football at their high schools.
Many of my Bears midgets were afraid to go on the field. We typically had one or two claim illness before every kickoff. They seemed to be struck ill when they laid eyes on the opponents. Within three minutes of the opening kickoff, I would have three or four kids claiming to be injured, although our trainer could find no symptoms other than the player's complaints.
My kick-return coachs son, who was also the starting tight end, refused to go on the field as a kick receiver in one game. When we insisted, he refused to pick up the ball which was kicked to him and the opponent recovered their own non-onside kick at about our ten-yard line. This was also the year when I had a twelve-play minimum.
One players father used to jump into the middle of my drills and curse me out in front of all my players and coaches. Typically, he had leaped to some erroneous conclusion about the way I was using his son, who was the biggest star on the team. One day I was practicing a play in which we faked to his son and gave to another player. He cursed me out for just using his son strictly as a decoy. In fact, his son carried the ball more than any other player, but I felt we had to have a play or two where we faked to him. Every time the father interfered, I immediately told the son to go turn in his equipment, but my superiors kept reinstating him. I resigned and the coach whose son refused to catch the kickoff became the head coach.
Last I heard, the Bears midget program had ten different coaches in its ten-year history. The Bears midget team tended to draw the best, most experienced coachesguys who had coached at the high school or even college level. They said they wanted me to take the team because the midget kids were hard to deal with and I was a West Point graduate, experienced high-school coach, former army company commander, and generally known as a disciplinarian. Ultimately, every single Bears midget coach said, Im out of here, two of us in mid-season. The other Bears midget coach who quit in mid-season had 27 years coaching experience including a couple of years coaching at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The T-Birds had the same local-high-school-had-freshman-football situation as the Bears, but the T-Bird program was more accepted in their community and had a better turnout. Even in the T-Bird league, they were having trouble with the midget level on other teams in the league. A number of teams were in danger of forfeiting the season because they could not get enough midget players. That league changed the rules to allow organizations to move players up from the next lower level to fill midget vacancies. One year, Livermore said they did not have enough kids of the right age and asked for an exception to the prohibition against 15-year olds. They got it and went undefeated.
I happened to be coaching at the high school where Livermore practiced that year. I observed one of their practices and thought they were lousy coaches. For example, they had a one-station segment where a ball carrier and tackler would run at each other full speed from about ten yards apart. The entire team took part in this drill, which meant all but two kids stood around doing nothing for an extended period. They had numerous coaches who could have run other stations to minimize stand-around time, but they all stood around the tackling pit commenting on the action there or chatting with each other. But if you can talk the league into letting you be the only team with 15-year olds, you can do pretty well.
In some towns, you have football, either tackle or flag, in junior high schools. There are also often problems with attendance and attitude with teenage athletes.
I cannot suggest a blanket solution to the midget problems. But I guarantee you that there are many programs where they are treating the midget level the same as the other levels and there are few programs where you can get away with that. The midget level is usually very different and must be run differently. Each league needs to scrutinize the midget-level situation closely and take common-sense steps to make it run smoothly. Coaches need more authority to deal with that age player. For example, it might be a good idea to eliminate the minimum-play rules so the coach has more leverage. I resigned in mid-season both times when I was a midget coach because my authority was reduced below what I was told it would be at the start of the season. (I had serious discipline problems at the Bears, but not the T-Birds.) Also, team size sometimes needs to be bigger to reflect the increased absenteeism at that age level.
Teams which are significantly different in average age should not play each other. The practice of having three-year groups play each other at the sub-teenage level works because each team tends to have the same age distribution. But at the teenage level, where local high schools vary in their football offerings, different teams are skewed toward one end or the other of the three-year age group.
A league needs about one more team than you have games. So a league that wanted to play, say, ten games, would have to have eleven teamsyour own team plus ten opponents. Kids have the most fun when their athletic ability matches that of their teammates and opponents. Thats why the best-organized youth sport, Little League, has majors and minors, and sometimes two levels of minors.
So if a league has enough kids for twenty teams, they should divide into A and B leagues where the better players are in the A league. That has the disadvantage of momentarily stinging the children who are not picked for the A leagueand their parents. But once they get into their season, that is forgotten.
The alternative, having one huge league, avoids ever telling any kid or parent that they are B level, but it makes for a miserable experience week after week. A youth-football league in my area, the Pleasanton Junior Football League, makes this mistake. They have a huge number of kids, but they put them all in one level. There are 22 to a team and everybody starts on offense or defense. As a consequence, each unit has several kids who are strong athletes and about eight who are not. I watched a couple of their games and was greatly distressed to see that what was going on was the three athletes on each team were playing a sort of keep-away game while the eight weak athletes on each team just made a cursory effort immediately after the snap, then stopped and turned to see how the athletes were doing. It was three-man football with eight spectators in football uniforms standing in the middle of the field.
Imagine what would happen if your local Little League combined all majors and minors teams into one league. The two studs on each team would pitch, catch, and get hits when they batted. The other kids would strike out all the time and stand in the field watching their stud teammates striking out all the opposing batters.
Kids do not all have the same athletic ability and pretending they do will not change that.
In the Rapid City, SD Midget Football Assoc. rules, we must play each player for 16 continuous plays (one full quarter), we must also bench each player for 16 continuous plays (another full quarter). We have "Stripers" which are over 95 lbs. for the 5th Grd. 105 lbs. for the 6th Grd., and 125 lbs. for the 7th grd. Stripers are noted by a strip of black tape running over the center of the helmet. No Striper is allowed to carry the ball from an offensive position, however, stripers are allowed to play as TE and may receive forward passes. No striper is allowed to play defense in any position other than D-Line. For 5th and 6th Grades, the defense may line uponly in a 6-1-4, unless inside the ten yard line, where a 5-2 is allowed; only in the 7th grade is the 5-2 allowed for regular play.