To set up flag football teams for success, below is a guide that prepares all levels of players. Whether this is your first season coaching, or you’re coming back for your tenth championship, our flag football plays and formations outline will provide a strong foundation for your team.
5 ON 5 FLAG FOOTBALL PLAYS
Traditional flag football leagues participate in 5 on 5 play. On offense, this typically consists of:
One quarterback: This player is given the ball at the start of the play and aims to throw the ball to an open receiver or the center. Because there are no linemen, you’ll find most 5 on 5 teams use football pass plays.
One center: This player hands the ball to the quarterback at the start of the play. They can then either guard the quarterback to allow more time for the quarterback to throw the ball, or release and run a route, similar to a receiver.
Three receivers: These players run designated routes to open themselves up for a pass from the quarterback.
For each offensive play, the individual players line up on the line of scrimmage. Each player then performs a running route. The combination of each of these routes make up a play. Mixing and matching the nine different route types and field positions allows for hundreds of unique plays. However, it is highly recommended that your team prepare a shortlist of preferred flag football plays ahead of the game. This will allow for quicker decisions in between downs and less confusion on the field.
We recommend beginning coaching with a strong set of fundamentals before conquering complex setups. Some of the best football plays are actually quite simple. That’s why our guide provides needed information—from basics to more advanced football formations—for both 5 on 5 and 7 on 7 flag football plays.
What is a football formation? At the beginning of all offensive plays, players on the field must create an offensive formation at the line of scrimmage. Football formations give each player a specific location on the line of scrimmage to begin their play. This prevents players from running into each other, crowding on the field, and promotes safety.
Take a look at the offensive flag football plays below. Each circle or O represents an individual player, with the square representing the quarterback. Where each player is located at the start of the play represents an offensive formation. The arrows reflect the plays, or routes, which provide an individualized map for each player in a formation.
NFL FLAG ROUTE TREE
Now let’s go over some more complicated routes showcased in the image above and walk through each individual player’s movement.
6 - Option: In this trick route, the player appears to begin a slant, heading toward the center of the field, but then cuts directly parallel toward the sideline. This is effective for needed short yardage.
7 - Stop and Go: This route is perfect for players who have a need for speed. First, they run straight about seven yards and then stop. Just when the designated defensive guard thinks they’re covered, the player takes off again toward the end zone. Catch that ball and they’re home free.
8 - Post Corner: This route mixes the magic of a post route with—you guessed it—a corner route. This player runs straight for seven yards, then cuts toward the center of the field. Once their guard is still, they break out toward the corner of the field.
9 - Chair: This player runs forward about four yards, then cuts parallel to the side of the field. Instead of stopping like an out route, they shoot straight up the field toward the end zone. These two back-to-back cuts leave defensive guards in the dust.
You can mix and match these routes to create your own custom flag football plays, which can be used in 5 on 5 flag football, 7 on 7 flag football, and even more advanced leagues.
BEST FLAG FOOTBALL PLAYS
Now that you know all the individual routes that make up a flag football play, let’s go over a few of the best flag football plays. Note that the plays shown are set up for 5 on 5, but can easily be adapted to other variations or levels.
Single-Back Criss-Cross - In this play, two receivers start at the line of scrimmage, equal lengths apart. An additional receiver starts a couple yards behind the quarterback.
Upon the snap, the center and the left receiver perform reverse slants, slightly staggered. This cuts off their respective defensive guards, opening them up for quick yardage.
The receiver on the right side of the quarterback performs an in route (opposite of an out route), at about 10 yards. It’s recommended to throw to this receiver if a first down is needed or the receiver is wide open.
Lastly, the receiver stacked behind the quarterback runs toward the outside of the field and up the field. Because this receiver is stacked behind the line of scrimmage, it allows more time for the player to get open before they are met by their respective defensive guard.
Trips Right - Notice that one side of the field has a defensive blindspot? It’s time to break out the triple, or ‘trips,’ formations. Trips plays can be used on either side of the quarterback and are designed to expose defensive weaknesses and cause confusion, making it one of the best youth flag football plays to unleash.
For this football play, we will stack the three receivers on the right side of the quarterback.
The receiver starting farthest right does a slight slant and then flies up the field, spreading out the defensive line. Meanwhile, the middle receiver performs a corner to further spread out the defense.
The inside receiver and center then do a crossing in and out, twisting up the remaining defensive players. Because of the misdirection of these two players, often one of them will remain open for some short, quick yardage while the defensive line readjusts to the scramble.
Single-Set Right Cross- Are you down by five with only 15 seconds left on the clock? Here’s the perfect football play to score some heavy yardage.
Have two receivers line up to the right of the quarterback, and the last receiver a few yards behind the quarterback. Upon the hike, the two receivers on the right perform a seven yard corner and a seven yard post, respectively. This cross throws off defenders and should leave you with two receivers open over 10 yards deep.
Safety pro-tip: Make sure to designate which player crosses first—you don’t want any team members bumping heads.
The remaining receiver behind the quarterback will start the route in a slant, then break off into a fly at the line of scrimmage. Perfect for a final hail mary!
If none of these routes leave receivers open, the center can release and do a five yard out. This is a quick release, resulting in slightly less yardage, but still a solid backup plan.