The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Aug. 7 that the football regular season will consist of six games beginning the final weekend of August, with the postseason beginning Oct. 9 and ending no later than Nov. 21, if Gov. Mike DeWine allows the season to be played.
All teams will be eligible for the playoffs, which will be seeded by a coaches’ vote during the final week of the regular season rather than by the usual format of computer ratings.
The regular season will conclude the weekend of Oct. 1-3.
Better-seeded teams will host games through the regional semifinals and possibly the regional finals, according to the OHSAA announcement.
The OHSAA said it was following “a recommendation this week from the governor’s office to shorten the season due to concerns that COVID-19 may spike in early winter.”
The format was approved in a 9-0 vote by the OHSAA board of directors.
“I’m really pleased that a plan is created to give the kids an opportunity to have something to look forward to and something to play for,” Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. “OHSAA has seemingly created a reasonable, realistic and responsible plan to have a safe season. ...
“I think this seems like a really smart approach giving the latitude to make sure the different school environments across the state develop a comfort level with the safety and protocols of a potential season.”
Schools must commit to participate in the playoffs by the end of the day Sept. 17 but can withdraw without penalty within a week after that. Regions will be drawn Sept. 18.
The number of playoff rounds depends on the number of participating schools.
“There will be schools that don’t opt in. That won’t be us; we want to compete for a state championship. That’s our goal every year,” Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. “One of the mantras of our program is you adapt and you overcome. We have to be like Teflon, let whatever comes our way roll right off and keep working really hard.”
Westerville South coach Matthew Christ, whose team is scheduled to open against Olentangy on Aug. 28 but has been limited to non-contact drills so far, is optimistic because of both the OHSAA plan and that his team is able to resume practice Aug. 10.
“At this point with everything that is going on, I’ll take whatever gets us to play football. I’ve been at that point now for a month. Whatever rules they want to follow, I don’t care,” Christ said. “We’re at a point where we can compete right now. I’m excited and praying that we’re going to have the opportunity to play."
Teams that choose to skip the playoffs or are eliminated can schedule up to four additional games, provided they are played by Nov. 14.
“This raises the possibility of schools generating some revenue through gate receipts,” OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring said in an email to member schools. “Allowing schools to play after being eliminated from the playoffs is similar to regulations that already exist for many other OHSAA sports. Additionally, this means schools that may be delayed in starting their seasons could still have a football season.”
Pickerington North coach Nate Hillerich said he’s “excited and hopeful” that games will be played.
“This year is so crazy that it's just a positive to let kids play football,” he said. “It's not going to be a normal year and things are going to happen. I think it could turn into some teams playing some games that maybe they (normally) wouldn't, maybe the same with the non-league (schedule).”
Dublin Coffman coach Mark Crabtree had similar thoughts about scheduling.
"I think that there is a lot of flexibility in it, which is what everyone is asking for," he said. "If you look at the various scenarios, it allows people to choose. I think it will be a little different for everyone, and that's good.
"I don't think anyone assumes that all teams will play a full season, and this helps people prepare for potential bumps in the road. If your district doesn't want you to start until Week 3 or Week 4, you can do that without having to worry about missing the playoffs. If your first game is Week 3 then you have three games before going to the playoffs and that's OK."
Dublin Jerome coach Bob Gecewich was happy to see a plan being sent to DeWine.
“Any football is a great opportunity for our kids. It’s good there’s a plan now. It’s good that there’s an accountable plan,” he said. “Obviously, we have to wait on the governor, but it’s more than what we had a week ago.”
Grandview coach Jason Peters said he is cautiously optimistic given that the final word rests with DeWine.
“It sounds good, but what if the governor says ‘no’ to it?” Peters said. “It's not a plan until the governor gives it his OK.”
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