Marysville’s Ryan Kern picks up yardage during a 2019 game. The Ohio High School Athletic Association has allowed schools can play six regular-season games this fall before the playoffs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) took a step forward toward a possible 2020 football season in the midst of COVID-19.
The organization on Friday afternoon announced it has proposed that teams would be permitted to play six regular season games.
The season would begin the week of Monday, Aug. 24.
The first Friday of the season would be Aug. 28.
That is all contingent on whether Gov. Mike DeWine gives his approval at some point in the near future.
“This is a positive thing as we work toward a season,” said Marysville High School head coach Brent Johnson.
The Monarch boss said Saturday afternoon he isn’t yet sure which opponents will be on the abbreviated regular season schedule.
“I haven’t talked to Joey (athletic director Day) or any of the principals,” said Johnson.
“I would guess we’d play one (OCC) crossover game and then our divisional games,” he said. “Nothing is yet etched in stone.”
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.
While high school teams would play six regular season games to begin the season, the OHSAA’s recommendation has a new twist.
Every high school squad in the state would be eligible for the state playoffs that would begin on Oct. 9.
The post-season would conclude no later than Nov. 21.
Schools, however, are not required to enter the playoffs.
“That would be up to each individual school district, as I understand it right now,” said Johnson. “A district’s administrators could say ‘no, thank you.’”
The OHSAA will determine new playoff regions in September. Schools that are eliminated from the playoffs may continue to schedule regular-season games up until Nov. 14, if opponents can be found.
There is also the possibility that any team’s next opponent could have to cancel a game if that school would be hit by a virus outbreak.
“If that would happenfrom what I understand, the OHSAA would have the ability to assign you to play another team if there is another vacancy,” said Johnson. “We could find out on a Wednesday, for instance, that we wouldn’t be able to play the team on our schedule and that we could play someone else,” he said. “That would give us only a day to prepare for a new team,” he said. “From that aspect, I’m not sure that would be a silver lining.”
Although a regular season of sorts has been proposed, football teams will still not be permitted to conduct pre-season scrimmages.
Johnson said that won’t be a big problem for his team
“We’ll do some intra-squad type of stuff that will simulate scrimmages,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we’re going to conduct one on Thursday of this week.”
Johnson was asked whether he felt going ahead with a possible shortened season but not playing scrimmages was contradictory.
He doesn’t think so.
“It’s actually logical in fighting this virus,” he said. “By not having scrimmages with other schools during the preseason, you’re minimizing contact between schools,
“I’d rather forego the scrimmages and be able to play some type of season.”
The Mid-American Conference, which includes schools such as Miami of Ohio, Ohio University, Bowling Green State University, Toledo and Ball State, announced on Saturday it was canceling the 2020 football season.
It was reported this morning that NCAA Power Five conferences could follow suit in the coming days.
The Ohio Athletic Conference, which includes Otterbein University, Capital University and Ohio Northern, announced earlier this month it was shutting down football.
The North Coast Athletic Conference, of which nearby Ohio Wesleyan University is an affiliate, has also called off the gridiron sport.
With college conferences abandoning ship this season, Johnson was asked how he felt high schools could play a schedule.
“That’s comparing apples to oranges,” he said. “College football teams have players on their rosters who are returning from different home states,” he said. “With high school teams, all of your players live in the same area.
“Also, it would be hard to control a crowd of 15,000 fans at a Kent State game,” he said. “We can have more control over smaller high school attendance.”
Whether fans will be permitted to attend high school games is an issue that remains to be seen.
The OHSAA had not made a ruling on that issue as of press time today.
The Journal-Tribune reached out to Day on Sunday with questions such as testing players for the virus, the turnaround time for those results and the cost of each test.
He did not respond as of press time.
While there may still be plenty of questions on the horizon as far as the high school football campaign, one thing is for certain.
Johnson will have his team ready to go.
“I’m glad high school football is hanging in there,” he said.
“We took this past Saturday off from practice, but that may be our final day off,” said the coach.
“We’re going full steam ahead as though we will be playing on Aug. 28.”
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