8 Man Football Formations

Table of Contents

In recent years, many eight on eight football leagues have been popping up all over the country. 

Especially in youth leagues, eight-man football is a faster, more exciting variation on the game we know and love. 

With fewer players on the field, you’ll find more space, meaning you can get creative with the types of plays you can call. 

From throwing the ball wide, hitting deep fly runs, or crashing the ball up the middle, 8 man football can be one of the most exciting formats of American football. 

To get your playmaking creativity flowing, we’ve set out some of our favorite offensive 8 man football plays you can build your football playbook around. 

8 man football offensive playbook

Under an 8 man offensive formation, teams usually line up with three or four or even five offensive linemen, depending on the play they’re running. 

That will usually leave you with one quarterback (QB) and three receivers, often two wide receivers (WR) and one running back (RB). 

Depending on how your defense are lining up against you or what type of play you want to run, you can have as many as four or even five wide receivers in the backline. 

But remember, even if you have Tom Brady on your team, you still need to provide your quarterback with protection, so I’d advise you to align with at least three offensive linemen, two defensive tackles, and one center like our first play. 

Bombs away!

Low on downs? Scoreboard against you? Your only option is to throw for the line.

With this play, you’re looking to launch the ball long and high to hit none of your wide receivers, tracking deep on the endzone. 

It is a risky play and gives very little protection to your QB, so you’ll need to ensure your center chan hit a longer snap to your QB, who will have to stand further back. 

But if it’s run right, it ensures guaranteed touchdowns. 

He’ll then have to cover the middle channel, with your offensive tackles or guards (OT) also securing the middle of the pitch to protect your QB. 

That will leave the QB open to hit multiple receivers advancing on the endzone. 

Starting from left to right, each WR will provide a different running option. The first WR will need to time his run to not collide with the player on his right, running a fast fly run straight to the endzone. He will hold his run, go straight, and cut a steep post towards the right-hand corner flag. 

In front of him, the QB will have a player running an out route as his security to gain a quick ten yards, while the WR on the far right will try to gain a few yards on his opposing cornerback, cutting inside but then changing his run again to run another post route to the corner.

The tank

Similar to a Wing-T offensive play, this 8 man adaptation uses a tight end (TE) to push your defense infield to create space for a running back sweeping round the back of the QB to hit the line at pace

The play also requires a WR and a fullback (FB) to block defenders from tackling your running back. 

With each of your blockers and offensive linemen directing the play to the right-hand side of the field, you’ll open up a channel on the left-hand side, which the RB can exploit to gain a quick ten yards.

This is an excellent play to use early on in the game to test your opposition defense to see how capable they are of adapting to switch plays. 

Plus, it’s also an excellent play for youth teams who may not necessarily have the most skilled or strong QB who can throw big darts 80 yards downfield. 

But this 8 man tackle football play does require a strong RB who can break through tackles and a WR who isn’t afraid of doing the dirty work to block defenders. 

Deceptive Wing-T

Looking to pull defenders out of the action zone? Why not use a wide receiver to run a decoy route to the right-hand side of the scrimmage?

With your RB set to receive the ball and loop around left, the WR who passes the QB first should pull a few defenders away from the left-hand side of the pitch and open up some space for your RB who will receive the football

Once he takes the pass from the QB, he’ll have three blockers pushing players back into the center of the pitch. The FB plays a crucial blocking role in this play, as he can fend off defenders, giving the RB enough space to make some vital yards to gain that next down. 

Crucially in this play, you need your offensive tackle to create that blocking wing that will push defenders back infield and create space for the ball carrier. 

Counter drag

Again in this play, you’re looking to deceive your opposition defenders

Ideally, you’d want to run the counter drag after you’ve already used a Wing-T formation to throw your offense. 

The play set up to draw players in to make them think we’re going to run the ball around the wing of the scrimmage, with your RB looping behind the QB and your TE and OT aligning to push your opposition infield

In reality, the QB will have two options: either hit the WR on the left who will run a drag route to the middle of the field, or launch a bomb to hit the WR on the right making a fly run on the right side of the field. 

This play requires your QB to be able to quickly assess how your defense is lining up, to offload the ball to the right player on the field. 

With defenders being sucked into the chaos on the left side of the field, the QB should be looking to hit the WR on the right, making a charge for the end zone.

Squeeze and out

Your objective on this play is to squeeze your defense into the middle of the pitch, to throw a long pass out to one of your WRs, making a route for the corner flag

The play starts with your offensive linemen, who will squeeze defenders inwards to make the field more narrow and provide your receivers with more space on the fringes of the scrimmage.

They, too, will try to deceive your opposition by starting their runs angling for the middle of the pitch, making it seem like the QB will throw the ball down the center of the field. 

In reality, these inside routes are all a show, and your WRs will both quickly change direction late in their routes to attack the opposing corner flags. 

This play is made by a third WR who will run a dummy route through the center of the park to draw more defenders infield. 

You’ll need pacey running backs to pull this one-off, and they’ll need to be able to change direction on a dime to escape their defenders and move to the endzone.

Short comeback

This is perhaps one of the most useful plays in the 8 man football offensive playbook. 

When you need to make that next down but are too far out to run the ball through the middle of the park, this play provides you with a safe option to throw the ball to one of your two WRs.

Each WR will advance high enough up-field to a position where they can receive the ball and make the next down. 

One WR will run a drag route infield, opening themselves up in the center of the pitch, while the other WR will turn and hit a sharp cutback, opening himself up to lose his defender and take a catch from the QB. 

Meanwhile, the QB also has the option to use his RB to run the ball up through the center of the scrimmage, but this is a dummy run, used to hold defenders in the center of the pitch and stop them from tracking back to defend against your wide receivers

The key to this play is instructing your WRs to break free of their defenders and gain those extra few yards of space to receive the catch without any obstructions. 

Crash ball

The crash ball does what it says on the tin. It’s a charging play designed for your strongest runners who can break tackles with their speed and power. 

The QB is the heart of this move and has three options. 

The first is to utilize the RB, who can advance straight up through the middle of the scrimmage, through a hole that your offensive line has made. More often than not, he’ll only gain a few yards here, with good defenses able to stop these central charges, but if you’re pushing for the endzone, this is perhaps one of the best routes to use to score. 

The QB can also shovel the ball to the FB, who will take a less direct route to the right-hand side of the scrimmage and will have a little more blocking coverage from the right tackle and the TE lining up on the end of the scrimmage. 

Lastly, the QB has the option to run the ball himself, with his best angle of attack coming via a looping run around the left side of the scrimmage.

Again this play is best for driving the ball over the line but is also great to slow the play clock down if you’re looking to take the sting out of the match.

The block-off

By utilizing two blockers, this play can be a devastating way to punch holes in your opposition defense and gain key yards higher up the pitch. 

With a fullback and a halfback pressing forward to fend off defenders, your running back, who will collect the ball from the QB and loop around the side of the scrimmage, should have a clear route to gain some valuable yards. 

Your fullback and halfback are two of the most valuable members of this formation and will need to be prepared to take out at least two, perhaps three, defenders between them. 

Meanwhile, at the scrimmage, each of your offensive linemen will push their opposition players to the right-hand side of the pitch, away from where your attackers will be running. Again in a similar fashion to a Wing-T offense, offensive coaches should put a TE on the left-hand side of the scrimmage to provide that extra bit of blocking cover for your runners coming round the corner. 

Other Useful Football Articles

The final down

But don’t forget how beneficial a simple crash ball play can be. If you’re looking to gain quick yards and move the ball quickly upfield, the Wing-T options detailed above are excellent plays you can include in your 8 man football playbook.

My top tip is not to overcomplicate things. Especially if you’re coaching youth teams, players can often get confused if you ask them to run unfamiliar routes or do multiple things at once. Keep each play as simple as the last and ensure each player understands his role before each scrimmage. 

Combine that with a well-developed 8 man tackle football playbook, and you’re guaranteed to score some brilliant touchdowns.

Ed Carruthers
Ed Carruthers
Ed Carruthers is a London-based semi-professional golfer. He loves traveling and is a bit of a sports fanatic. When he’s not at his desk, he’s either hacking around the golf course, kicking a footy around with his mates, or watching his beloved football team Everton.