TAVARES — Football is all about offense.

Nowadays, rules makers seem bent on putting more and more points on the scoreboard, often handcuffing the defense in the process.

That’s the case even during the offseason, when many teams compete in 7-on-7 leagues that give offenses a chance to work on their passing games. Oftentimes, defense is little more than an afterthought in these passing leagues.

But defensive coaches and players on teams competing in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ passing league this month at the Hickory Point Recreational Complex have found ways to make the most of their time. Many take the challenge of trying to stop opposing passing games seriously, just as they would if it were a district game with potential playoff berths at stake.

“These type of leagues are really tough on defenses,” said Mount Dora coach Frank Scott. “Since there are no defensive lineman, quarterbacks have up to four seconds to find a receiver, which really puts a lot of pressure on your linebackers and defensive backs. In a regular-season game, a quarterback might have only two or three seconds to get rid of the ball.

“The kids really enjoy themselves, because it gives them a chance to compete and they get a break from the weight room.”

As its name implies, the league has seven players on each side of the ball. Neither team uses down linemen — offensive units are made up of skill-position players, while defenses consist of linebackers and defensive backs.

Oftentimes, a coach or an ineligible player snaps the ball.

The Hickory Point league, which began last week and runs through most of June, has teams from seven area schools — Leesburg, Mount Dora, Tavares, Eustis, Lake Minneola, Umatilla and South Lake. Leesburg fields two teams.

Leesburg coach Mark Oates said he is not a “fan” of passing leagues, but defers to the desires of his players and coaches who “love” to compete. Oates said it gives players — especially those who might have recently joined the program — a chance to bond with their teammates, while coaches can begin instilling the mindset they want to see when preseason practices begin July 30.

“Defensively, we’ll spend a lot of our time working on coverages,” Oates said. “Our timing on defense won’t be there like it will be in the regular season, because opposing quarterbacks don’t have to worry about defensive linemen chasing them down. But it’s a game against an actual opponent, so it’s nice to see our kids bow their necks and fight when they’re trying to keep a team out of the end zone. Even out here, defensive players play with a lot of pride.”

And that’s probably why some of the best defenders in Lake County turn out to compete in the sweltering morning heat and humidity, even though the very concept of the league is geared more toward the other side of the line of scrimmage.

“We can definitely benefit from being out here,” said Lake Minneola defensive back Kenan Johnson, expected to be one of the area’s most-heavily recruited defensive players. Johnson, a member of the Daily Commercial’s First Team All-Area Defense, has already received offers from multiple schools, including UCF, Pitt and Temple.

“We can try different concepts and see how well they might work. It’s also a chance to make adjustments if something isn’t working before it costs us a touchdown in a game that counts. We certainly have a reason to be here; it’s definitely not just an excuse to get out of the weight room.

“This league might be mostly for offenses, but the defenses are here to get better, too.”