The Ohio High School Athletic Association announcement that the football playoffs were adding four more teams Wednesday had three area coaches excited about the opportunity for more schools to make the playoffs but they also see new challenges that the playoff expansion presents.
The new format will have the top four seeds with a bye in the first round, 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.
“Well I think you give more teams the opportunity to participate in the postseason it is a positive for the communities and the school systems and the kids involved,” St. Marys head coach Doug Frye said. “I’m excited because more communities are going to get the opportunity to be a part of the playoff season.”
Lima Central Catholic head coach Scott Palte was also receptive to postseason expansion and said he would not have minded if they opened it up even more.
“I think it is interesting. I’d like to see it go to 16 where there is no bye week,” Palte said. “I would have just blown it open. I would have gone way more than four. Personally I would like to see everyone make it like every other high school sport to be honest with you. That is what I would have wanted more than anything. The more the better. More teams get to play and that is a good thing.”
Ottawa-Glandorf’s Ken Schriner sees the positive and negatives of the playoff expansion.
“I see it both ways. There are goods and bads and pros and cons,” Schriner said. “Number one I think it is a great opportunity for schools to make the playoffs that might not otherwise make it and that is a great experience.
Schriner added that it also gives teams a chance to host a playoff game which also is exciting.
Frye and Schriner have their concerns because the season begins a week earlier.
“It shortens the preseason and I don’t know if I like that,” Schriner said. “We are all in the same boat. I think it does put some stress on your coaches because it is going to shorten the preseason a little but again I am going to flip my coin back again because to win a state championship a team (may) have to play 16 games. Colleges don’t even play 16 games.”
Schriner adds that this is a lot of stress on a student athlete.
Frye also was not a big fan of the shortened preseason and that was one of his major concerns with the expansion.
“The good thing is you end, if you make it all the way, at the same time and it doesn’t extend the season anymore so that is a positive but I wasn’t overly thrilled to start a little earlier.”
Bye weeks are going to be one of the new things that coaches will have to adjust to as well.
Palte is not a huge fan of bye weeks while Frye and Schriner have mixed emotions on the week off if the team is a top four seed.
“Again pros and cons,” Schriner said. “I think from the good it gives your team a chance to heal up and rest a little bit. It has been a 10 week season and you have some bumps and bruises and you get a chance to heal up. Another pro is it gives coaches a chance to scout a game live, and I love that opportunity,” Schriner added.
However, one of the negatives Schriner said is taking a week off can stop a team’s momentum that is on a roll or a bye team can face a team coming off a big win that is even more determined to keep that momentum going.
Schriner pointed to last season where the Titans lost their final two games of the season and got the opportunity to reset for the playoffs and then went on a roll that saw them advance to the regional finals.
Because he has never experienced a bye, Frye said he will have to wait and see on how to adjust to it if his team receives one.
“You see it at the pro and college level but as a high school coach and in my career I have never faced it,” Frye said. “As I look at it I look at it with mixed emotions. If your team is playing awful you don’t know if you want to take that week off. But if you do have some kids that are dinged up at the end of the season it gives them the opportunity to get healthy and allows your team to become more physically and mentally healthy for the playoffs.”
Frye did add from a preparation standpoint that it might might be beneficial because in the past when the Roughriders had a Saturday contest in the playoffs, Frye liked it because it did give him and the coaching staff an extra day to get ready.
As far as more teams in the playoffs, Palte does not believe it waters down the competition, and it gives more teams something to play for if they are on the bubble of making the playoffs.
“When you have something to play for in the eighth, ninth and 10th games of the season it it is a lot easier to play and a lot easier to coach,” Palte said. “I think anything that keeps them going and keeps them fighting is a good thing.”
Schriner does believe it does take a little away from how tough it is to make the playoffs and said there was a team that went 8-2 and finished 14th in their region and a 7-3 team that ended up 13th and would not have made the playoffs under the new guidelines.
“Our region is a little different than some regions,” Schriner said. “I’ve seen some guys online saying 4-6 teams and 5-5 would make the playoffs. Our region is not that way. You look at some of the other regions in Division VI and Division VII that some of those teams are 5-5 and 6-4 and are deserving of a playoff spot. Somewhere it has to be cut off. I am not complaining. I just want to see how the whole thing is going to work.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.