YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – High school football playoffs are expanding here in Ohio.
The OHSAA Board of Directors unanimously voted Wednesday to increase the number of playoff teams by four in each region, starting next year.
A total of 224 teams currently make the playoffs here in Ohio. In 2021, that number will jump to 336. This opens the door for many local teams, who have narrowly missed out in recent years.
“In our region, I know we have to be 8-2,” said Bob Spaite, Columbiana head coach. “At 7-3, it’s just blind luck if we get in. You gotta be at least 8-2, you probably need to be 9-1.”
Columbiana was 7-3 last year and left out of the playoffs in a competitive Region 17. Under the new system, the Clippers would have made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. Instead, they made it just once in that span.
Up in Trumbull County, Niles also finished 7-3 last year and they too were left out as an 11-seed.
“I kind of like that it’s tough to get in as it is,” said Jim Parry, Niles head coach. “Will this change that dramatically? No, but it does change things.”
“It does give you more of a wiggle room but still as a program, you want to try and win every game you can,” said Tim McGlynn, Champion head coach. “I think it’s been 30-some years since the Champion Flashes have made the playoffs and last year we would’ve been that 12 seed.”
The season is still expected to end at the same time but would start a week earlier. The top four seeds will also earn first-round byes with seeds 5-8 hosting a first-round game.
But with more teams in, there is concern that more mismatches could happen across the board.
“Football is different than every other sport, there are physical mismatches that take place,” Spaite said. “We have a running clock for a reason.”
“Just say we end up being a four [seed], we would love to have a bye week because it’s going to hopefully get us healthy,” McGlynn said.
The change will also impact scheduling. Teams can now challenge themselves more in the regular season with better competition. Ultimately, more teams in the playoffs means more opportunities for every school district.
“I think that’s the silver lining with this whole thing, is being involved in playoff football is exciting,” Parry said. “So the fact that you can get some more kids that experience, that’s what I feel is the real positive here.”
“I just think it’s a really exciting thing,” McGlynn said. “Especially for the smaller schools, it’s a big morale boost.”
“There’s negatives and positives on both sides,” Spaite said. “We’re in it now so we’ll just have to adjust as coaches.”