Less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to leave for the Division VII state championship game, New Bremen found out it would be going to a different part of Ohio to play it.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Thursday afternoon all six state finals scheduled for this weekend will be played at Massillon Washington High School’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The games were scheduled to take place at Fortress Obetz in suburban Columbus, but the OHSAA said it decided to move the games after discussions Thursday morning with Obetz and Franklin County officials.
Franklin County’s health board issued a stay-at-home advisory on Wednesday. While the county’s advisory isn’t an order or mandate and doesn’t restrict any public activities, it is recommending its residents to stay home as much as possible and limit interactions in public. The advisory also recommended athletic events not be played in Franklin County.
Massillon Washington, which along with Canton’s Fawcett Stadium hosted state finals from 1990 through 2013, offered to the OHSAA to host this weekend’s games after Franklin County’s advisory.
“This is a big change at the 11th hour, but Massillon Washington can accommodate these games and the number of fans that are permitted to attend,” Beau Rugg, OHSAA football administrator, said in a news release. “We are pleased to be playing football this weekend and are excited that these 12 schools will be able to finish their season.”
The schedule of games remains the same, though the OHSAA had previously adjusted schedules on Wednesday after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a temporary 10 p.m. curfew that will take effect on Friday night.
New Bremen (9-2) will face Warren John F. Kennedy (9-2) in the Div. VII state final. The game was originally scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m., but the OHSAA moved the start time of all state finals on Friday and Saturday back 45 minutes. The Cardinals’ game will start at 1:15 as a result.
Massillon Washington will face Akron Hoban in the Div. II state final, which is scheduled for 6:15 on Friday.
“Completing this weekend’s state championship games is very important to the schools, student athletes and communities, so we felt strongly about finding a place to play,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said. “These 12 schools just want to play and we thank them for accepting this change. We would also like to especially thank Massillon Washington High School for stepping up to host, and also Hoban for agreeing to play there.”
Paul Brown Tiger Stadium has a seating capacity of a little over 16,000 and is named after the former Ohio State, Browns and Bengals coach, who graduated from Washington and coached at the high school for eight years.
Fortress Obetz is a multi-purpose sports complex located in Obetz on the southeast side of Columbus. The facility, which includes Memorial Park and totals 50 acres, opened in 2017 on the former site of the Columbus Motor Speedway.
Fortress Obetz hosted the Division I state championship last Friday. St. Xavier beat Pickerington Central 44-3 in front of 1,500 fans.
“Fortress Obetz was excited to host these games and we appreciate all the work that they put into preparations,” Ute said.
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.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.