The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s brief experiment with an all-Friday playoff system has come to an end after just one year.
The OHSAA announced Wednesday it will be going back to a split system for playoff football games. Divisions I, II, III and VI will play on Friday nights during the playoffs, while Divisions IV, V and VII will play on Saturday nights.
Last year, the OHSAA moved all playoff games to Friday nights after a long stretch of games being played on both nights. Also, beginning this year, games will kick off at 7 p.m. both nights. Previously, Friday night playoff games began at 7:30 p.m.
Attendance at playoff games dropped by over 34,000 from 2016 to 2017.
“We still have good attendance throughout the playoffs, but the overall total attendance dropped in 2017 when we moved all the games to Fridays,” Beau Rugg, OHSAA Director of Officiating and Sport Management and the OHSAA’s football administrator, said in a statement.
“Some parts of the state liked staying away from Saturdays for playoff games, but we also received quite a bit of feedback, mainly from the smaller schools, that they hoped we would return to having games on Saturdays, too, so their communities could see two games per weekend instead of one.”
Several area teams could potentially be affected by the move back to the Friday/Saturday schedule. Anna and Versailles both are in Division V, while Fort Loramie, Lehman Catholic, Minster, New Bremen and Riverside are Div. VII teams.
Should any of those teams qualify for the playoffs, they would play on Saturday night. Last year, all squads but Versailles and New Bremen qualified for postseason play.
While all eight area schools will remain in the same divisions in which they played last season, two will be changing playoff regions. Both Anna and Versailles will be moving from Region 20 to Region 18. Region 20 is made of southwest Ohio teams, while Region 18 is made of northwest Ohio squads.
For the sake of comparison, Anna went 7-3 last year and finished seventh the Region 20 computer points standings with 15.40 points. That point total would have put the Rockets in sixth place in Region 18 last year.
Other local teams will remain in the following divisions and regions: Sidney (Division II, Region 8), Fort Loramie (Div. VII, Region 28), Lehman Catholic (Div. VII, Region 28), Minster (Div. VII, Region 28), New Bremen (Div. VII, Region 28), Riverside (Div. VII, Region 28).
The OHSAA also announced Wednesday the 2018 title games will return to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The specific dates and times for the state championship games in Canton will be announced after state semifinals.
It could be the last year for state championships in Canton for a while. OHSAA Executive Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross, who will retire later this year, said in April the games could return to Columbus in 2019. Hall of Fame Stadium will be unavailable to OHSAA use in 2019 and 2020 due to NFL 100-year anniversary preparations.
Teams are allowed to begin preseason practice on July 30.
Sidney Daily News sports editor Bryant Billing contributed to this article. Billing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.