COLUMBUS The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s football postseason has been a continuously shifting, evolving entity in recent years.
For many years, the OHSAA split its state championship games between Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon and then-Fawcett Stadium in Canton. When Fawcett Stadium underwent a massive, NFL-led renovation a few years ago on its way to becoming Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the OHSAA temporarily shifted its title games to Ohio Stadium on the campus of Ohio State.
Last year, the title games were back in Canton, but the postseason underwent another change as all playoff games for the first four rounds were played on Friday nights. Games kicked off at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, back from the typical 7 p.m. start time used by most schools for regular-season contests in part with the idea that an extra half hour would be helpful for teams making long road trips for a game on a school day.
Come this fall, the postseason landscape is changing again. The OHSAA will return to using Saturday nights for several divisions during the playoffs under school playoff regional assignments and a playoff schedule approved by the organization’s board of directors earlier this month.
OHSAA Director of Officiating and Sport Management Beau Rugg explained that the change came in light of feedback from member schools and fans speaking out about having all playoff games on Fridays.
"We still have good attendance throughout the playoffs, but the overall total attendance dropped in 2017 when we moved all the games to Fridays," Rugg said.
Rugg, who is the OHSAA’s football administrator, added that much of the feedback came from those in small-school-heavy regions where football games are a big part of the fabric of the community. Such areas could have more than one team in the region and having multiple playoff games at the same time forced fans to choose between them.
"Some parts of the state liked staying away from Saturdays for playoff games, but we also received quite a bit of feedback, mainly from the smaller schools, that they hoped we would return to having games on Saturdays, too, so their communities could see two games per weekend instead of one," Rugg added.
Under the reformatted postseason slate, Division I, II, III and VI games will be played on Fridays, while Division IV, V and VII games will take place on Saturdays, with all games kicking off at 7 p.m. Among Suburbanite-area teams, Jackson (Division I, Region 1), Green (Division II, Region 7), Lake (Division II, Region 7), Coventry (Division III, Region 9), Springfield (Division III, Region 9) and Mogadore (Division VI, Region 21) would all play any playoff games on Friday nights, while Manchester (Division V, Region 17) and Canton Central Catholic (Division V, Region 17) would play on Saturday nights.
All seven state championship games will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The specific dates Nov. 23 and 24, with the championship games scheduled from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2. Teams are allowed to begin official practices July 30, with scrimmages permitted Aug. 7 through Aug. 18 and the regular season beginning Aug, 20.
The final day of the regular season is Oct. 27, with playoff participants announced the next day and the first round of the postseason kicking off Nov. 2. Last season, Jackson, Mogadore and Manchester all qualified for the playoffs and Green narrowly missed out on the postseason. One interesting note for the Bulldogs is that they have changed playoff regions, shifting from Region 5 to Region 7, a move that places them in the same region as Lake, a geographic and Federal League rival.
Coventry also came close to qualifying for the playoffs, with a Week 2 loss to Tallmadge ultimately proving to be the result that kept the Comets from a postseason berth.
For Mogadore, the playoff appearance kept alive a streak that has seen the Wildcats take part in the postseason every year this century, with their last non-playoff season coming back in 1999.
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