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Ten Ways to Dominate in Flag Football


By Max Moyer, special to Sports Illustrated On Campus
Reprinted with permission for Bman.com

Fall is here, and with it the long awaited return of football. But before you stumble blindly into another mediocre flag football experience, check out ten ways to dominate the league this year:

1. The Pitch

If your league calls the ball dead when it hits the ground (and most do), you absolutely must take advantage of the lateral -- it can turn a loss of yards into a touchdown. Every play, your players should be thinking pitch.

2. A Powerful Rush

Don't make the mistake of using "leftover" players as rushers. Instead, use your best athletes to rush -- it will pay off. A nasty rush can completely neutralize a quarterback and demoralize the opposing offense.

3. Adjustments

A flexible team is a winning team. Spend time planning so you're not trying to invent your strategy on the field. Here are some things to develop:

• A plan for an overwhelming rush (releasing blockers, quick passes, pitches).

• A plan for a team that doesn't rush (QB sneaks, two-move routes).

• A dominant defense (zone or man, blitzes, audibles).

• A plan to handle a fast, shifty QB (extra rushers, etc.).

4. A Good Playbook

Nine times out of ten a good scheme will beat raw athleticism. You need organization and plays. If you're not inclined (or simply don't have time) to create an entire playbook, try a site like Flag Football Ninja that sells them cheap.

5. Simple Rotations

If you have a big team, game-time rotation can become utter chaos. Figure out an efficient, organized way to substitute players through. Avoid team politics by spreading the talent around the rotation instead of having your "starters" out first. A backup squad with no playmakers is useless to put out on the field at almost any point in the game.

6. Defense

Defense wins championships. Generally, teams of five or fewer should be playing a man-to-man defense unless the field is small. A zone can work with a bigger team. Every defense will have its weak spots, but giving the quarterback too much time is unacceptable. So send your rushers as often as you can, and use the blitz aggressively to keep the QB on the run. Also, a zone will completely fall apart if your defenders don't stick to their spots.

7. Timing

This, unfortunately, requires practice. But if your QB can master a handful of routes (or even a couple), throwing just as the receiver cuts, you can build a championship offense. A QB who can pair accuracy and timing can't be stopped.

8. Rhythm

Everyone wants to huck it deep. While there is much to be said for having some long plays in your arsenal, by and large, you will fare much better with shorter, consistent plays. A relentless short game will wear down the defense much more effectively than a few long plays, and successive completions batter the opponents psyche as well.

9. Experiment Early

Regardless of how good your scheme is entering the season, you will be better if you adjust after each game. Each team has its own chemistry. Building on the concept of flexibility, try as many plays and schemes as you can early in the season, but by playoff time you should have distilled down what works best for your team. After a few weeks of regular season play, you should know what works and what looked better on paper than on the field.

10. Flag Pulling

Nothing is more important in flag football than being able to pull the flag. Again, nothing is more important in flag football than being able to pull the flag. This sounds dumb, but time and time again, short dump passes turn into touchdowns because of missed pulls.

Try the following:

• Don't wait flat-footed: If you wait for the ball carrier to pass at full speed while you flail and swipe at the flags, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Instead, meet the ball carrier as early as possible, and move with the ball carrier while you pull the flags.

• Get in the way: Most flag leagues do not allow (much) contact. That is why it can be especially helpful to stand in the way of the ball carrier while trying to pull the flag. They can't bull you over; they have to go around. This slows them down and gives you more time to pull the flag.

• Pursuit: If everyone on your team pursues the play, you will win more games. You'll have fewer breakaways because if one guy misses the flag, another is right there.

Follow these tips, and you'll be on your way to your own championships.