The face of central Ohio high school football fans transformed into a collective cringe when they heard about the Beechcroft High School football team's 96-0 shellacking of Centennial on Oct. 10.

The face of central Ohio high school football fans transformed into a collective cringe when they heard about the Beechcroft High School football team's 96-0 shellacking of Centennial on Oct. 10.

When you consider that the final score frankly could have been even worse if the Cougars hadn't taken a knee whenever they had the ball in the fourth quarter, it leads to a series of questions.

How can one team be that much better than the other?

Is this an aberration?

There are always going to be blowouts, but when does one particular result forcefully bring to the forefront the need for change?

It's not as if there are no struggling teams in the OCC, but every year the discrepancy between the best City League teams and the worst ones seems to get bigger.

That's never been more painfully obvious than this year. Not only did the Stars lose by nearly triple digits to the playoff-caliber Cougars, but they also fell to Division I playoff-qualifier Brookhaven 56-0 and haven't won a game since the eighth game of the 2006 season.

Columbus South, which joined Centennial as one of 44 teams throughout the state which hadn't won an OHSAA game heading into week 10, lost by scores of 60-0 to Eastmoor (Sept. 22), 65-0 to Walnut Ridge (Oct. 17) and 57-0 to Africentric (Oct. 3).

Because of Columbus Public School's open-enrollment policy for students when they enter high school, the City-North and City-South divisions can't be compared to any others throughout central Ohio.

According to the official numbers handed into the OHSAA for the 2007-09 school years, Beechcroft has 407 boys and Centennial has 380. That on the surface wouldn't lead anyone to think that the Stars are at a big disadvantage. But simply put, many athletes who have the opportunity will abandon the neighborhood they live in when they begin ninth grade to attend one of the "football" or "basketball" schools.

It's been this way for years and it's probably not going to change.

Centennial doesn't have even one player weighing more than 200 pounds on its team.

It would be logical to blame longtime coach Pat Sergio for not getting more "athletes" to come out for football, but for the most part, the type of athletes needed to be good in football at Centennial do not exist there.

Which leads to this question: What can be done to at least limit the blowouts and create more competitive games? These blowouts are certainly not helping the teams on the winning side, either.

While players for Centennial and South obviously don't enjoy the weekly beatings, teams such as Brookhaven, Beechcroft, Marion-Franklin, Eastmoor and Independence aren't getting much from those games. The results of this have been just as obvious in the playoffs, where City teams have gone a combined 0-7 over the last three postseasons.

Realignment seems like a logical alternative, but there are obstacles to overcome.

After using a format which had Beechcroft, Briggs, Brookhaven, Mifflin, Northland and West in the City-Red and Centennial, East, Eastmoor, Independence, Linden, South, Walnut Ridge and Whetstone in the City-Blue for several years, the City elected to go with the current setup in 2003 to line up with other sports.

The City-Red and City-Blue alignments likely wouldn't help much in terms of limiting blowouts and bringing more competitiveness, but realignment is something that CPS student activities director Mike Rotonda acknowledges has been considered.

In case you're wondering, an alignment strictly by numbers wouldn't work because of Eastmoor. Most of the struggling teams are in the bottom half in terms of numbers, but the Warriors' enrollment of 272 boys is the second-lowest in the City.

We'd all love to see one division of the City's strongest programs -- Beechcroft, Brookhaven, Eastmoor, Independence, Marion-Franklin, Northland, Walnut Ridge and Whetstone -- and the other with everyone else. That would make for intrigue every week but would probably make it so that only one or two teams make the playoffs every year as opposed to this year when five teams advanced.

Rather than radical realignment, City administrators should, for now, do just a little bit of work on the extremes.

Every year, there could be an exception made to the team that's coming off a winless league season so that the next year they wouldn't have to play the top two teams in the league from the year before.

In this case, it would mean that Centennial wouldn't play Brookhaven and Beechcroft next year. In the City-South, South wouldn't play Eastmoor or Marion-Franklin, which shared the title.

That would open up the possibility for Centennial and South to play each other in one of the weeks they would have had to play one of the stronger teams. If they can't find another opponent to fill their schedule, they can simply take one bye week as an extra opportunity to rest as they continue to rebuild their program.

The top teams also would get a big benefit.

Instead of playing Centennial, Brookhaven could substitute Marion-Franklin and Beechcroft could substitute Eastmoor.

That would help prepare the top teams better for the playoffs, and it would help the winners of these games in terms of playoff points.

For those concerned about which team would be given the conference championship, you can simply count the games not played against Centennial or South as wins in the standings.

There is no easy solution to the problems the City is dealing with, but there's no reason City administrators couldn't think outside the box with a unique solution such as this.