OHSAA unveils division changes
With district Offensive Player of the Year Brandon Schoen leading the way in 2011, the Olentangy Orange High School football team won its last five regular-season games and earned the eighth and final berth in the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
Whether the Pioneers should have been considered an underdog based on their enrollment is a matter of perspective, but they had the lowest number of boys in their school - 499, which was just five over the cutoff - among the 32 teams that qualified for the Division I playoffs that fall.
Gahanna was the largest qualifier in Region 3 with 880 boys, while the enrollments for Cincinnati St. Xavier in Region 4 and Cleveland St. Ignatius in Region I were 1,165 and 1,121, respectively.
The gap between the largest and smallest schools in Division I has been reduced as a result of a seven-division format for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. There had been six divisions since 1994.
The new format was approved in April 2012 and on June 13 the OHSAA announced its new divisional alignments, and Orange is among the schools affected.
With an enrollment of 564 boys during the 2012-13 school year, Orange now will be one of the larger Division II programs.
"I don't think it's about the more the merrier, but there were some rather large Division I schools," Pioneers coach Brian Cross said. "Before, when the cutoff was 499, you could be playing a team that had more than 1,000 boys, and I thought that was too big of a discrepancy. Now with the cutoff at 608, if they play a team with an enrollment of 1,000, there's a 400 discrepancy, which is better. If the difference is about 200 boys, which is where we'll be in Division II, you have a chance to compete."
Division I now consists of schools with 608 or more boys. The other enrollment ranges are 403-607 in Division II, 281-402 for Division III, 213-280 in Division IV, 156-212 in Division V, 112-155 in Division VI and 111 or fewer in Division VII.
The traditional postseason format in which the top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs will remain in place in Divisions II through VII, Division I now will be divided into Northern and Southern regions with 16 teams making the playoffs in each region.
In the first round of the playoffs in Division I, the top seed in the each region will face the No. 16 seed, the second seed will play the No. 15 seed and so forth.
Of the 20 central Ohio teams that will compete in Division I this fall, 15 will be in the Southern Region with traditional Cincinnati powerhouses such as Colerain, St. Xavier and 2012 state champion Moeller.
The Division I schools from Delaware County (Olentangy Liberty, Delaware and Westerville Central), Union County (Marysville) and Licking County (Newark) will compete in the Northern Region with traditional powerhouses such as St. Ignatius, Lakewood St. Edward and 2012 state runner-up Toledo Whitmer.
"I personally thought it was a good system before," Dublin Coffman coach Mark Crabtree said. "If you look at the teams in the OCC, nothing has really changed other than you might have to travel to Cincinnati in the first round."
Dublin Scioto and Olentangy, which made the Division I playoffs a year ago, now will compete in Division II with schools such as Canal Winchester, New Albany and St. Charles.
Marion-Franklin, which had made the playoffs in Division II the past nine seasons, now is in Division III along with perennial playoff contenders Beech-croft, Brookhaven, DeSales and Eastmoor Academy.
Watterson has dropped to Division IV after qualifying for the Division III playoffs last year, Hartley has moved to Division V after advancing to a Division IV state semifinal last fall and Ready has dropped two divisions to Division VI after making the playoffs in Division IV last season.
Newark Catholic, which was the Division VI state runner-up last season, has the lowest enrollment in Division VI at 112.
"Every year there are a handful of teams with a good chance at a state championship," Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. "Last year (in Division IV), the handful included us, (Clarksville) Clinton-Massie, (Creston) Norwayne. Now (in Division V) it's going to be (Youngstown) Ursuline, Coldwater, St. Clairsville, us.
"I don't know that I feel too strongly about (adding a seventh division). The big enrollment schools felt like something needed to be done. But seven divisions is a lot of champions and a lot of football games."