The Ohio High School Athletic Association sent a memo to its member schools Tuesday night, which included a variety of updates, namely the decision to suspend contact sports scrimmages indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the memo, Ohio is “on track” for contact sports to begin practices on Aug. 1. Contact sports currently include: football, soccer, field hockey and cross country. However, the memo went on to state the indefinite suspension of contact sport scrimmages.
The memo stated: “We do not anticipate that suspension changing soon and there remains possibility that no scrimmages will be permitted in contact sports of football, soccer and field hockey. We will keep you updated if that changes.”
This decision could be a glimpse into the future of football this fall.
“We’re really treading into ugly water right now,” Edgewood coach Jon Butchko said. “We had five calendar months to get this right, and to stand here 72 hours before camp is set to open with our quote unquote pants down ... that’s a tough look for anybody to back.”
These scrimmages are used as an opportunity to develop, learn good and bad trends of the team and opposition before games count and solidify position battles.
“In situations like many of the rosters in Ashtabula County, I think [scrimmages] are paramount,” Butchko said. “Scrimmages for us, and for [smaller] programs like us that fight the numbers game quite a bit, they’re very important.”
Scrimmages also give schools opportunities to go against each other when games don’t count to try out schemes in controlled settings and give less experienced players playing time to develop.
“It depends on where your program’s at,” Geneva coach Chip Sorber said. “If you’re a first-year coach or if you’re having a very young team, they’re probably even more important. If you’re coming back with a seasoned team, you can go into games and already know who you have for the most part.
“But there’s always new kids. You gotta see how they perform under Friday night lights.”
The lack of scrimmages could show on the field in the early going, but ultimately, coaches just want the opportunity to start the season at the end of August.
“Whatever we have to do, if that’s what they feel we need to do [we’ll do it],” Sorber said. “I don’t know if [no scrimmages] is in the best interest of the kids. What it would end up making is your first couple games would be live scrimmages. They would just count.”
Football coaches in Ohio will likely search for a substitution to scrimmages during practice.
“I’m gonna meet with my staff [tomorrow] to discuss the changes,” Jefferson coach Ed Rankin said. “We’re going to have to be creative.”
Whether local schools take to the field this fall is anyone’s guess at this time.
“I would put it at a coin flip right now,” Butchko said. “If you’re paying attention to the greater world around you, you would probably say it’s more of a 30 or 40 percent chance that we play.”