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All broken up

OHSAA football plan: Shortened season, all teams make playoffs

Vindicator file photo / R. Michael Semple Poland and Dean Gessler, shown here breaking up a pass play to Perry’s Anthony Rosati, should have a chance to defend their regional title after the OHSAA decided on Friday to have a football season with playoffs.

Fear of a COVID-19 spike in late fall played a role in what will be a drastically different high school football season in 2020, according to a release from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s office recommended this week that the season be shortened. The OHSAA announced Friday that a season in which all schools will be eligible for the playoffs will have its championship games played no later than Nov. 21. In past seasons, the title games were played the first weekend of December.

It is still possible that the governor’s office will not permit high school football games to be played, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff Cassella, athletic administrator at Mentor High School and president of the OHSAA Board of Directors, said in an OHSAA release that the plan offers a little for everyone.

“To both ensure we can offer students the opportunity to participate in education-based (athletics) but do so with their best interests in mind, we believe this modified plan offers a positive solution by addressing many of the concerns of our member schools,” he said. “Those that are able to start their seasons on time will be able to do so. Those that are starting later can still have a season. Add in the option of all schools entering the playoffs and the possibility of schools still being able to play 10 regular season contests, and this plan is helpful to virtually all of our schools.”

The OHSAA Board of Directors assisted OHSAA staff to create the proposal and approved it by a 9-0 vote.

Among the highlights of the plan:

¯ All schools are eligible — but do not have to participate — for the playoffs, which will begin Oct. 9 (originally Week 7 of the season). Championship games will be played no later than Nov. 21. The number of playoff rounds is dependent on the number of schools participating in a particular division.

¯ Schools must commit to participate in the playoffs by Sept. 17. Playoff regions will be drawn on Sept. 18, and schools will be permitted to withdraw from the playoffs without penalty until Sept. 24.

¯ Playoff seeding will be by a coaches’ vote the week of Sept. 28. The Harbin computer ratings will not be utilized in 2020.

¯ After a team is eliminated from the playoffs, it can schedule and play regular season games through Nov. 14, but teams are limited to 10 regular season games. The same is true for teams that choose not to compete in the playoffs.

¯ Schools may keep their first six previously scheduled games, but all regular-season football contracts are now voidable by either school, especially in the event that conferences redo their league schedules to fit into the first six weeks.

According to the OHSAA release, 60 percent of superintendents, principals and athletic administrators who were surveyed were in favor of maintaining full OHSAA tournaments whether or not a full regular season was played.

A decision on spectators at contact sports has not yet been made, but the OHSAA believes that at minimum parents should be permitted to attend, the release stated.

Four of the OHSAA’s fall sports — volleyball, cross country, tennis and golf — have been determined to be low-contact by the governor’s office and thus are permitted to have contests with other schools.

The OHSAA’s fall sports of field hockey, soccer and football have been determined to be contact sports, and the OHSAA continues to work with Gov. DeWine’s office and the Ohio Department of Health toward modified protocols for those three sports to have contests.

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