Every once in a while, if you sift through enough high school results printed in ant-sized font in the back of the The Columbus Dispatch sports section, you'll see something that makes you stop and think.

Every once in a while, if you sift through enough high school results printed in ant-sized font in the back of the The Columbus Dispatch sports section, you'll see something that makes you stop and think.

For me, it wasn't a 52-0 softball score or a 10.3 in the 100 meters that caught my eye. It was a tie -- 10-all to be exact.

But it was a girls lacrosse score, and for some reason, I couldn't recall ever seeing another tie in girls lacrosse before. I checked with one of the coaches, and she explained that the game went to double overtime, each team scored once and it ended in a tie. It sounded fine to me.

If you keep checking up on the high school results, you'll eventually find something else that catches your eye. Again, it was a tie. Hilliard Darby, which was involved in the tie against Dublin Scioto on April 3, played to a second consecutive tie five days later. On April 8, Darby tied Hilliard Davidson at 6 -- wow, what are the odds?

I went to talk with Darby coach Erin Tarloff about the somewhat unusual occurrence of having two consecutive tie games. It turns out that not only had Darby tied twice, but it had tied using two totally different overtime formats.

In the Darby-Scioto game, the teams played two three-minute overtime periods, with each team scoring once. The game then was called a tie. In the Darby-Davidson game, the teams played a three-minute overtime, with neither team scoring. That game then was called a tie.

"We were definitely a little frustrated with the rule and realizing that it was a different rule than it was on (April 3)," Tarloff said. "I think we ended (the game) confused."

Now, if you follow high school sports for a while (and you look at tons of tiny boxscores) you'll eventually come upon a situation that makes your brain hurt. It happened to me a few days later, when I checked up with Hartley coach Kevin Gieg, now in his 10th season. His team had just lost to Watterson 13-12 in overtime April 8, so I figured I'd clarify with him exactly how this overtime business was supposed to work. He said he believed the overtime period was supposed to be played without a clock at all, with the first team to score getting the win. So wait, you can't have a tie?

OK, so if you continue to read tiny boxscores, you finally will find something makes you decide it's time to just read the official rulebook once and for all. A few days after talking to Gieg, Hartley and Westerville South played to a tie at 4. Wait a second ... so you can have a tie?

At that point, it was time to check the rules myself. According to the OSLA ByLaws and Operating Policy, regular-season games that are tied at the end of regulation are supposed to be played as such:

"If an OSLA regular season game ends regulation play with a tie score, a three-minute 'Sudden Victory' period will be played, with the first team scoring winning. If the game is still tied at the end of the three-minute period, it will end as a tie. Timing during the SV overtime period will follow US Lacrosse rules for overtime periods."

In the postseason, the rules change. Since there can be no ties in an elimination tournament, the OSLA uses the US Lacrosse rules for overtime play in the postseason. According to the 2008 US Lacrosse women's rulebook, the overtime games are played with a six-minute overtime period, with the win going to the team that is ahead at the end of the overtime period. If the game is still tied, the teams will play another six-minute sudden-victory overtime period. The teams continue playing sudden-victory overtimes until one team scores.

Actually, there had been no regular-season overtime at all in Ohio until last season. According to OSLA commissioner Ernie Hartong, the current system was put in place to limit the number of ties and avoid multi-overtime marathons. He said he believes that by and large, coaches and officials understand the rules.

"We have three rules interpretation meetings around the state and we have our annual coaches meeting, and the rules are explained," Hartong said. "We have reiterated that to all our coaches (following the Darby-Scioto game) and it really hasn't been a problem other than that one game."

It seems, despite the confusion for some coaches and the odd sequence of events, that the Darby-Scioto game in fact was the only area game that played out incorrectly. The Darby-Davidson game was played using the correct rules, as was the Hartley-Westerville South game. In the Hartley-Watterson game, the officials got away with one: they did not use a clock in the overtime, but Gieg said Watterson scored its winning goal well within the first three minutes of play.

Even though the outcome of only one area game was affected, it seems clear that the problem still needs to be addressed. These four games only represent a fraction of the games played around the state, so who knows how many other coaches and officials still are unclear on exactly how to run an overtime period. In the postseason, a mix-up potentially could throw a wrench in the entire bracket.

And for those who keep up with the scores, that could really make your brain hurt.

Anders

Larson