The 2020 high school football season was a unique one across Ohio, with every participating school allowed to make the state playoffs in a time where the COVID-19 pandemic had created an uncertain sports atmosphere.
The playoff field in 2021 won’t be that large, but it won’t go back to the prior format, either. Previously, the top eight teams in each region advanced to the playoffs. On April 22, the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s board of directors announced that it will double the playoff field per region to 16 going forward.
To make it work, the higher-seeded teams will host games during the first two rounds of the playoffs instead of just the first round. Throughout the regional playoffs, the higher-seeded team will be the home team. The top teams in each region will receive a first-round bye.
Earlier this year, the OHSAA had decided to expand the playoff field to 12 teams per region after a poll conducted by the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association showed that 55% of the 442 coaches asked were in favor of 12-team regions.
The first official football practice day is set for Aug. 1, with the first Friday of the regular season being Aug. 20. The regular season will conclude on Oct. 23.
Venues for spring championships
During its board of directors meeting on April 22, the OHSAA discussed venues for the state championship tournaments for spring sports. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization won’t have a gauge on what attendance protocols will be until May.
The boys tennis state tournament will remain at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, set to take place on May 28-29. State softball will stay at Firestone Stadium in Akron from June 3-5. State baseball will continue at Canal Park in Akron from June 10-12.
The state tournament semifinals for boys and girls lacrosse will be played at neutral sites June 1-2, with the state championship games staying at Ohio Wesleyan University on June 5.
State track and field will emanate from three different Central Ohio high schools on June 4-5, due to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus not being a viable venue during the pandemic. The Division I meet will be hosted by Hilliard Darby, Division II by Pickerington North and Division III at Westerville North.
Also discussed at the April 22 OHSAA board of directors meeting was a measure to increase revenue for an organization that has been hurt financially during the pandemic. The OHSAA staff made a proposal to the board to begin charging member school dues beginning with the 2021-22 school year.
The proposal is for each high school to pay $50 per OHSAA-sanctioned sport that the school offers. Member schools received a memo on the proposal on April 23, with a vote to take place on May 3.
The OHSAA is a non-profit, funded mostly through tournament ticket sales (80%), officials dues (10%) and corporate partnerships (10%). The pandemic has wreaked havoc on ticket sales in the past year, in particular, due to the cancellation of all state tournaments during the 2020 winter and spring seasons, then with the decreased spectator capacity at state tournaments across all sports this school year.
The OHSAA said during the board meeting that while it had managed to keep its costs down over the past year through a variety of cuts, it had lost $2 million in ticket revenue during the winter state tournaments compared to 2019.
Avon boys win Comet Relays
For the first time in program history, the Avon boys track and field team won the Comet Relays on April 24, one of the biggest regular-season meets on the Northeast Ohio calendar each year.
The Eagles scored 75 points to top the 27-team field to win the 65th annual event at Amherst High School. Second-place Boardman scored 50. The Eagles’ top performance of the day came in the 4x800 relay, where the team of Nathan Ferguson, Ryan Hammerschmidt, Cole Emerine and Jett Wieber finished first in 8:00.53. They received runner-up finishes from Colin Kaufmann in the 100-meter dash (11.04), Hunter Maxey in the pole vault (14 feet, 6 inches) and Evan Schakel in the discus throw (149-06).
St. Edward got a first-place finish from Carlton Landingham in the 100 (10.84) and was second in the 4x1,600 relay (18:15.09). Westlake’s Austin Norris was third in the 300 hurdles (40.43).
In the girls meet, Avon finished third in a 27-team field and was led by senior thrower Molly Radcliffe, who won the discus (146-09). Tia Miller tied Berea-Midpark’s Finley Devins for first in the pole vault (10-0). Juliet Goodelle was second in the 300 hurdles (47.27).
Leading Avon Lake were twin sisters Brooke and Bree Lumpkin, who won the shot put relay by finishing first (43-11) and third (38-07), respectively. Magnificat’s best finish came in the 4x800, where it took third (9:56.45). Westlake was third in both the 800 sprint medley relay (1:52.84) and 4x100 (51.46), while Ellie Irwin took second in the 1,600 (5:21.43).
On April 21, Bay senior Chloe Rickson signed on to continue her track and field career at Miami (OH) University.
During the winter indoor season this year, she took fourth in the long jump and 11th in the 200 at the OATCCC Indoor Championships. As a sophomore in 2019, she was named the Great Lakes Conference’s Most Valuable Runner and was a regional qualifier in the long jump. She was First Team All-GLC in the 100, 200 and long jump during that season.
As a freshman in 2018, she placed first in the long jump at the GLC meet and qualified for the regional meet weeks later in the same event.
In separate ceremonies held on April 15 at Bay High School, senior Mason Cover signed to continue wrestling at Cleveland State University, while Maeve Milligan signed to compete in track and field at Indiana Tech University.
This past season, Cover was a GLC and Division II sectional champion at 220 pounds, and a runner-up at the district tournament. He advanced to state and placed eighth.
Milligan is a two-time defending GLC champion in the pole vault, which she won in 2018 and 2019. During her sophomore season in 2019, she also qualified for the regional meet and broke the school record with a high vault of 11-03.