OHSAA finalizes schedule for state football finals

D-VII state final scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. at Fortress Obetz

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced the schedule for Division II through VII state finals in a press release earlier this week. The games will be played Nov. 20-22 at Fortress Obetz in Southeast Columbus, which also hosted the state cross country meet earlier this month.

The Div. VII state final will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20. New Bremen faced Lima Central Catholic in a state semifinal on Friday in Wapakoneta and if victorious will face the Newark Catholic vs. Warren JFK winner in the D-VII state final.

The football state championships kicked off Friday night when Pickerington Central faced Cincinnati St. Xavier in the Div. I state championship game. State semifinals in Div. II through VII were or are taking place at neutral sites around the state Friday and Saturday night.

The D-II state final will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 20. The D-V and D-III finals will take place at 2 and 7 p.m., respectively, on Nov. 21. The D-IV and VI state championships will kick off at 2 and 7, respectively, on Nov. 22.

The two competing schools in each game are provided with a specific number of tickets base on attendance limitations currently set by the Ohio Department of Health’s Sports Order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are at 15 percent of the permanent seating capacity, but no more than 1,500 spectators per game.

For the state championship games at Fortress Obetz, 1,500 spectators will be permitted, therefore both schools will receive 750 tickets. There will be no general admission public sale of tickets for the state semifinals or state championship games.

Fortress Obetz is a multi-purpose sports complex located in Obetz on the southeast side of Columbus. Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton had hosted the football finals for the last three years, but attendance limitations currently set by ODOH forced the OHSAA to look elsewhere this year.

Fortress Obetz has an 8,000-seat grandstand. The facility, which includes Memorial Park and totals 50 acres, opened in 2017 on the former site of the Columbus Motor Speedway.

“Fortress Obetz is an outstanding facility and we are grateful for the partnership with the Village of Obetz and stadium director Steve Adams,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said. “The teams will get to play on a fantastic field and the large grandstand will allow us to permit the maximum number of fans to see their teams play for state titles. Obetz is excited to host the football state championship games and we are pleased to find a partner during these uncertain times.”

Fortress Obetz was built to host sporting events, concerts, festivals and more. It was the home of the Ohio Machine professional lacrosse team from 2017-19. The facility has five video boards, concessions, restrooms and several parking areas outside the stadium.

“Fortress Obetz and our entire community are very excited and proud to partner with the Ohio High School Athletic Association and their member schools during this challenging and unprecedented football season,” said Steve Adams, National Director of Athletic Operations and Facilities Promotion, Village of Obetz.

The OHSAA is trying to deal with budget problems. The association, which earns 80 percent of its revenue from tournament ticket sales, said its 2020-21 budget calls for a $1.3 million deficit.

Current spectator restrictions forced the OHSAA to alter how it conducts some fall postseason tournaments. Regional soccer games weren’t held at neutral sites as normal due to an inability by the association to find enough willing hosts.

The state volleyball tournament, which is taking place this weekend, was moved to Vandalia-Butler High School’s Student Activity Center after the OHSAA and normal host Wright State couldn’t agree on a lower rate for this season.

“We are very thankful that Butler High School stepped forward to host our volleyball state tournament,” Emily Gates, OHSAA director of sport management and the volleyball administrator, said in a statement in late October. “We look forward to our return to Wright State University in the future, but with the small number of fans who can attend this year, we needed to find a smaller venue that was still an exceptional site. We found that at Butler High School and are very excited to work together on this great state tournament.”

The Columbus Crew’s MAPFRE Stadium is hosting state soccer finals this weekend as normal. The OHSAA lauded the organization in a press release in late October for “working with the OHSAA to make it possible for the finals to remain at MAPFRE Stadium, where they have been since 1999.”

“We would like to thank the Crew SC for being such a great partner during these uncertain times,” Kathleen Coughlin, OHSAA director of sport management and soccer administrator, said in the release. “Due to the attendance restrictions this year, we didn’t know if it would be possible to have our finals in such an outstanding venue, but the Crew SC made it happen and we couldn’t be happier to once again crown our soccer state champions at MAPFRE Stadium.”

State finals locations will be cleared and cleaned after each game.

D-VII state final scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. at Fortress Obetz