CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Sept. 15, 2023) — Before this week’s inaugural round of girls flag football games in the Diablo Athletic League commissioner Mark Tran spoke in enthusiastic terms about the newest sport the California Interscholastic Federation has approved for official play in the state.
“I’m so excited [about the start of flag football]. It’s going to blow up,” Tran told The Pioneer.
The first-ever DAL games this Wednesday are in a very abbreviated schedule. Ten schools are taking part in this first season including College Park, Northgate and Clayton Valley Charter locally.
Although both the Diablo and East Bay athletic leagues embraced the new sport when the state CIF approved 7v7 flag football there will be no post-season playoffs as the North Coast Section did not know if there would be the critical mass to warrant them this fall.
Based on the amount of interest it is virtually certain that will change in 2024. Tran is going to partially remedy that situation locally with a one-day DAL championship playoff on Saturday, Nov 4.
Carondelet is the only EBAL school not taking part this year. Athletic director Piper Brewster explained, “We already sponsor girls rugby in the fall season so we thought that it may take away from that sport since we are a small school. If there is a lot of interest though then we would potentially add it for 2024.”
The DAL schedule is a single round-robin involving the 10 schools with Wednesday games at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. Because of the three-games per site setup the first three weeks will have nine games between league schools which will be considered non-league and not count in the standings. On the final four Wednesdays one school will have a bye with games held at three sites among three teams with each squad playing two games.
Games have two 20-minute halves with a running clock except for the final two minutes of each half. There is a five-minute halftime, so games should take about one hour to complete.
CIF rules call for fields 50 to 80 yards in length with 10-yard end zones. Field width can vary from 30 to 40 yards. There is no punting or kickoffs, so goal posts are not used.
Rules for wide open play
The game is designed to be wide open with no blocking, moving screens, bump and run coverage, stiff arming or excessive contact. The ball carrier is “tackled” when one of their three 14-1/2 inch flags is pulled by the defense or otherwise comes off.
Up to two defensive players can rush the quarterback as long as they are lined up seven yards behind the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. The quarterback may ground the ball or throw it out of bounds forward intentionally to avoid a sack.
The quarterback (whoever receives the center snap on a play) can only run once per set of downs unless the defense rushes multiple players, in which case the quarterback can run. All players are eligible receivers.
There is a five-yard no run zone in front of each end zone and for certain plays. No run zones are designed to avoid short-yardage, power-running situations to help avoid blocks, screens and excessive contact.
Scoring is the same as football for touchdown, safety and point after (1 or 2 points based on length of play). Tie games will go to overtime.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.