OHSAA to expand football playoffs in 2021

In this file photo from October 2019, Geneva’s Charlie Taylor races for a touchdown against West Geauga at Spire Institute in Harpersfield Township. On Wednesday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced the playoffs will expand from eight to 12 teams per region starting with the 2021 season.

 COLUMBUS — More high school football teams will have the opportunity to play in the postseason starting in 2021.

During its May meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors voted unanimously to expand the OHSAA football playoffs from eight schools per region to 12. The 9-0 affirmative vote was given to a recommendation from the OHSAA staff, which was based on a proposal from the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association.

For county teams in 2019, Conneaut, which finished the regular season at 9-1, placed 10th in the Division 5, Region 17 final OHSAA computer ratings. Geneva ended with an 8-2 overall mark, but didn’t make the playoffs in a rugged Division III, Region 9.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Eagles coach Chip Sorber said. “I also think shortening the preseason to accomodate the expansion is also good. Football is so practice intensive with only 10 games guaranteed.

“The expansion lessons practices while enhancing your chance to play more games, which is a plus.”

In the first round of the playoffs, the top four seeds will have a bye, while the No. 12 seed will play at the No. 5 seed, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7 and No. 9 at No. 8. In the second round, the No. 1 seed will play the winner of the 8 vs. 9 game; the No. 2 seed will play the winner of 6 vs. 11; the No. 3 seed will play the winner of 7 vs. 10 and the No. 4 seed will play the winner of 5 vs. 12.

The expansion will increase the number of football playoff qualifiers from 224 to 336. Last year, there were 709 schools in Ohio that played 11-man football. Football is the only OHSAA team sport in which not every school qualifies for the postseason.

“We still have details to work out regarding the format and specific season dates, but this vote by the board gives us the green light to finalize those details for 2021,” said Beau Rugg, Senior Director of Officiating and Sport Management for the OHSAA and the Association’s football administrator. “We are thankful for the Board’s support on this proposal, which will bring all the great things of playoff football to 112 additional schools and communities.”

Rugg added that the football finals in 2021 are expected to end during the same weekend as previously scheduled (Dec. 2-5). Schools will still be permitted to play 10 regular-season contests.

The higher seeded teams will have the opportunity to host their playoff games during the first and second rounds of the playoffs.

The OHSAA football playoffs began in 1972 when only 12 schools qualified for the playoffs (four schools in each of three classes).

Expansion first came in 1980 when the OHSAA changed to five divisions with eight teams each (40 total qualifiers). A sixth division was added in 1994 (96 total qualifiers) and the number of qualifiers was increased to eight schools per region in 1999 (192 total qualifiers). A seventh division was added in 2013 to bring the number of qualifiers to 224.

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