Balash is no fan of Friday-only playoff games
By Greg Gulas
When the Mahoning Valley landed 18 teams in this year’s high school football playoffs, Channel 21 sports director Dana Balash hoped like other area diehards that many would advance to second-round play.
But when 14 teams fell by the wayside in round one, Balash told the Curbstone Coaches on Monday that it was one of the toughest playoff starts that he has witnessed during his 33 years behind a microphone.
“The four teams that remain — Canfield, Cardinal Mooney, Girard and South Range — will all play tough second-round opponents this week, but have more than a fighting chance to move on,” Balash said.
“It was a challenge covering all of our teams because this was the first time all games were played on Friday night,” Balash said. “The Ohio High School Athletic Association is set to review having all games played on Friday.
“Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross says they will listen to concerns from our media advisory committee, as well as soliciting input from others before making any recommendations for 2018.”
Balash added that the OHSAA wants to stay away from Saturday playoff games in order to not compete with college football.
“The OHSAA believes that Saturday belongs to college football and that is the reason they moved all games to Friday,” Balash said. “That may be the case in Franklin County, but I don’t think that’s the case around the rest of the state.
“I, for one, am not a fan of all Friday games because we cannot give proper exposure to our teams, and that remains very important to me,” Balash said. “Many coaches around the state share are unhappy with this new set-up.”
Tom Benson Stadium (the former Fawcett Stadium adjacent to Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton) is set to host the state championship games.
“After the state football championships are played at Tom Benson Stadium next month, there is absolutely no way they should ever leave that facility,” Balash said. “It’s beautiful and fits everyone’s needs, most especially that of the fans.”
Along with staffers Mike Ackelson and Brittany Bissell, Balash anchors the 22-minute “Taco Bell Overtime Report” each Friday night during the season. The segment has covered more than 5,200 scholastic contests.
“We’re in our 24th year, the show has been well-received and we’ve already surpassed 200 high school games covered this season,” Balash said. “Balash said Youngstown State University, most especially its athletic teams, is a tremendous asset for the entire Mahoning Valley.
“It was nice to see the Penguins’ football team snap their losing streak against Indiana State on Saturday,” he said. “Unfortunately, it may be too late when talking about the postseason but if you finish 6-5, anything is possible depending on what happens across the FCS.”
According to Balash, the YSU men’s and women’s basketball teams already have piqued everyone’s interest.
“I’m really looking forward to the new style of play that Jerrod Calhoun is bringing to the men’s basketball program,” Balash said.
Not talking about a Browns loss on Monday was a welcomed break.
“The good thing is we aren’t talking about a Browns loss today, but the bad thing is that they play the Lions on Sunday,” he said. “Changes have to be made, but not as far as the coaching staff. Hue Jackson is not the problem. It’s in the evaluation of players and the front office and I think that’s where changes have be made. Let Hue coach, just get better people in the front office.”