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The PNFL follows most of the same rules as the National Federation of State High School Associations 

(NFHS), but with a few exceptions. See below for a list of notable NFHS rules adopted by the PNFL, as 

well as the differences between PNFL rules and NFHS rules. Please note, this is not a comprehensive list 

of ALL rules, but just a list of rules that differ from the NFHS, as well as a summary of notable other rules 

the league wants to highlight. If you have any questions, concerns, or need clarification on any rules, 

please email the league at info@pnfl.org.

 

TIMING

Each game will consist of four quarters, with each quarter lasting twelve minutes.

The play clock will last 40 seconds.

- The offensive team has 40 seconds from the time the ball is spotted to start a new play.

- If play has stopped, such as for a timeout, then the offense has 25 seconds from the time the 

referee spots the ball and starts the play clock.

 

The game clock will stop only under the following scenarios:

- During timeouts

- At the end of a quarter

- When a ball carrier runs out of bounds in the last two minutes of a half (clock will run during all 

other times a ball carrier steps out of bounds)

- On a penalty

- When a player is injured

- When a team scores

- After an incomplete pass

- When the officials need to measure for a first down

 

In regards to the above clock stoppage scenarios, please note the following: 

- If a ball carrier runs out of the balls the clock will continue to run unless it takes place within the 

last two minutes of a half.

- The clock continues to run when the offense gets a first down (same as in NFL) – there is no 

clock stoppage to reset the chains.

- There is no two minute warning in the PNFL (same as NFHS and NCAA).

 

OVERTIME

- Each team is given one possession beginning at the opposing team’s 25 yard line.

- If after the one overtime period there is no winner, the game will result in a tie.

 

NOTABLE PENALTIES

The following will incur a 5 yard penalty:

  • Delay of game
  • Illegal substitution
  • Encroachment
  • False start
  • Illegal formation
  • Illegal snap
  • Illegal shift
  • Illegal motion
  • Illegal formation
  • Illegal forward pass
  • Intentional grounding
  • Ineligible receiver downfield
  • Illegal touching
  • Illegal fair catch
  • Running into the kicker or holder

The following will incur a 10 yard penalty:

  • Holding (offensive or defensive)
  • Block in the back

The following will incur a 15 yard penalty:

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct
  • Illegal kicking
  • Illegal blocking
  • Kick-catch interference
  • Pass interference (offensive or defensive)
  • Blocking below the waist
  • Clipping
  • Chop block
  • Tripping
  • Personal foul
  • Facemask
  • Illegal helmet contact
  • Hose collar tackle
  • Roughing the kicker or holder
  • Sideline interference (after already receiving a warning upon first offense)

 

NOTABLE RULES

- Defensive pass interference is a 15 yard penalty AND an automatic first down (Different from 

NFHS)

- Offensive pass interference is a 15 yard penalty AND a loss of down (different from NFHS)

- Defensive holding is a 10 yard penalty AND an automatic first down (different from NFHS)

- Personal foul penalties carry a 15 yard penalty and an automatic first down (different from 

NFHS)

- There is no “outside the tackle box” rule. If a quarterback intentionally throws the ball out of

bounds with no receiver in the area, it doesn’t matter whether the QB is outside the tackle box 

or not – it’s a penalty for intentional grounding.

- The defense may not return an extra point for a score.

- Mercy rule: if at any point a team is ahead by 35 points a running clock will be utilized. 

- There are NO number restrictions. Any player at any position can wear any number.

 

KICKOFFS

- Kickoffs will take place at the kicking team’s 40 yard line

- If a ball is kicked out of bounds on a kickoff then the receiving team will start their possession 

with the ball spotted at their own 40 yard line (different from NFHS)

- If the ball crosses the goal line on a kickoff, the receiving team has the option of returning the 

kickoff out of the endzone (Unlike NFHS, which utilizes an automatic touchback)

 

NOT ENOUGH PLAYERS TO FIELD A FULL TEAM

-          If a team has 12 or fewer players active for a game, that team – WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE OTHER TEAM’S COACHES/CAPTAINS – may elect to play with fewer than 11 players on the field, but no less than 8 players. In this scenario, the opposing team has to agree to the number of players, and match that number of players on the field at any given time, rather than playing 11 on 10, 11 on 8, etc.

o   For example: Team A has 10 players active for a game. Team A can request permission from Team B to play 8 v 8 (or 9 v 9, 10 v 10…), rather than 11 v 11.

o   If exercising this option, a team may NOT start a game with fewer than 8 players. If a team does not have at least 8 players in time for kickoff, that team must automatically forfeit, and no game will be played.

 

TIEBREAKERS

In determining the league championship matchup, as well as league standings, in the event two or more 

teams are tied with the same overall record, the following order of tiebreakers will apply:

- 1) Head to head matchup result(s)

- 2) Fewest points allowed in head to head matchup(s)

- 3) Fewest points allowed to all opponents over the entire season

- 4) Most rushing yards over the entire season

- 5) Coin flip