7-on-7 summer football surges in popularity

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2014 - 12:04 PM

The offseason game helps develop skills while not forgetting the fun factor.


Stillwater’s Justin DeShaw made a grab during a practice. It’s all about passing — and passing defense — in 7-on-7 football, with no linemen and no direct contact allowed.

Photo: Photos by ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

With abundant athletic ability, a dream of playing quarterback and a terrific arm, former wide receiver D.J. Skie was handed the keys to Stillwater’s 7-on-7 summer football team offense in early June with one basic instruction:

Have fun.

Expectations were nonexistent. Stillwater coach Beau LaBore was just looking for a little offseason bonding, using a pass-happy game reminiscent of schoolyard touch football. For his team, he also hoped to get a jump on the quarterback search that loomed ahead.

“We don’t really stress 7-on-7 at all,” LaBore said. “[The players] pretty much organize it themselves. We just look at it as a way to get the players together and have some fun.”

And fun they had, so much so that they surprised everyone by winning what is perhaps the biggest local competition of the summer in the burgeoning world of 7-on-7 football.

These days, nearly every high school fields a summer team, though the level of formality and seriousness widely varies.

The 7-on-7 football boom is a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging in the vacuum created by the fall season being high school football’s only competitive period. Coaches have long sought the same avenues to expand their game in ways high school sports such as hockey, basketball and soccer enjoy.

“We played 7-on-7 back in 1982, when I was coaching football,” said Kevin Merkle, Minnesota State High School League associate director who oversees the sport. “Of course, it wasn’t as big of a deal back then. It was just some players getting together once a week.”

Stillwater’s collection of 12 players and two coaches pretty much did just that — until their upset of Lakeville South 45-38 on June 22 in the championship game of the Vikings’ 7-on-7 tournament at Winter Park. The victory earned them a spot in the NFL national tournament in Indianapolis, which began on July 14.

“That was crazy,” said Skie, whose eye-opening performance this summer has vaulted him into a likely starting role this fall despite not playing quarterback since eighth grade. “To be honest, we really didn’t practice that much before we won it. But since we’re going to nationals, we’ve been taking it more seriously.”

Discounting the breathless hyperbole ascribed to it in Internet recruiting reports, 7-on-7 passing games are only slightly more structured than your average touch football game.

There are no linemen and no direct contact is allowed. Teams generally consist of 12 to 14 players, sometimes more, who play both offense and defense, seven to a side. It’s all passing, with quarterbacks limited to four seconds to get a pass away before a play is called dead.

Teams start on the opponent’s 40-yard-line. First downs are earned by gaining 20 yards rather than the usual 10. Interceptions count as turnovers, but cannot be returned for a score. When one possession concludes, teams flip-flop sides and start again from the 40. Referees are present, but rarely do more than keep time, determine completions and spot the ball.

Big plays are frequent, scores are high and athleticism moves front-and-center.

“Kids love it,” Cambridge-Isanti coach Mike Hennen said. “It’s basically basketball on grass.”

Passing, defending both valued

It’s no coincidence that the rise of 7-on-7 leagues coincided with football’s embrace of complex passing attacks. The running game might still be the popcorn kernel, but passing is the heat that makes it explode.

“Unless you’re a program that always has a huge line and a stud running back, I think you have to do some 7-on-7,” LaBore said. “We’re still a run-first team, so I’m not sure how much this will help our offense, but we are always looking at ways to open things up a little more.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 3rd Prd 1:51
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57


question of the day

Poll: How will the Wild finish out the season?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters