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Could the Oregon high school football season switch to a 7-on-7 format? ‘If this is our only option for a season, then we will play our hearts out’

If state health guidelines do not allow for contact sports to take place by early February, one option the OSAA will consider is replacing traditional tackle football with a passing-only version of the sport — something Vermont did during the fall, to mixed reviews.
7on7

If state health guidelines do not allow for contact sports to take place by early February, one option the OSAA will consider is replacing traditional tackle football with a passing-only version of the sport — something Vermont did during the fall, to mixed reviews

By René Ferrán

With less than four weeks until the scheduled Feb. 8 start date, Oregon high school football coaches remain optimistic that by this time next month, they’ll have their first official practices in the book in preparation for an abbreviated six-week season concluding with a culminating-week event that has yet to be determined.

They also cast a wary eye at the metrics, however, and with more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state every day but one since Dec. 30, many are waiting for the other shoe to drop — that state health officials will not approve contact sports to take place, forcing the OSAA to cancel the season.

The most recent guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority on Jan. 6 continues to list football, basketball, wrestling and boys lacrosse as “full-contact sports” that remain prohibited activities. This guidance would need to change in the next month for football practice to begin.

When the OSAA Executive Board announced the changes to the high school sports calendar last month, executive director Peter Weber acknowledged the possibility that the guidance might not change. He also explained how a group of athletic directors and coaches have worked the past several months on developing options for a full-contact season if it takes place — and alternatives if one could not happen.

One alternative being studied is switching to a 7on7 (or 7v7) format for the season — something that only one state, Vermont, has chosen to date for the 2020-21 school year, although Texas offers a summer 7on7 league complete with an official state championship. 

While many coaches and players do not favor a 7v7 season, if the choice comes down to 7v7 or nothing, they often fall on the side of doing something.

“Definitely all of us, especially the seniors, want to play tackle football,” said Lakeridge senior quarterback Andrew Oliver, who has signed with The Citadel. “But we know that might not be a possibility. I know a lot of us would be interested in competing.”

His counterpart down the road at Lake Oswego, junior Jack Layne, expressed similar sentiments.

“At the end of the day, we just want to play. We want to do something,” Layne said. “I’d definitely rather play tackle. I know I’ve been waiting nine months for this. We feel like it’s so close. But, if it happens to be a 7-on-7 season, we’d roll with it. We’ll just ball like we’ve prepared to do since last season.”

Explaining the 7on7 rules

Most summer 7on7 passing leagues follow the Official USA Football 7on7 Rules, which include:

  • Seven offensive and seven defensive players, with an ineligible center as one of the seven offensive players.
  • No kickoffs. Offensive possessions start from the 40-yard line.
  • No running plays. Forward passes only.
  • Quarterbacks receive the ball from the center snap, but there is no pass rush. Quarterbacks have four seconds to pass the ball; if they exceed four seconds, the play continues, but the ball is brought back to the previous line of scrimmage with a loss of down.
  • One-hand touch brings the receiver “down.”
  • Three plays to gain a first down. The lines to gain are the 25- and 10-yard lines, regardless of where the new series of downs begins.
  • No PAT kicks. Successful conversions are one point from the 5-yard line or two points from the 10.