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OHSAA to expand high school football playoffs to 12 teams per region starting in 2021

The change will allow 112 extra schools across seven divisions to make the postseason.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — High School football in the Buckeye State is about to get a bit bigger (literally).

The Ohio High School Athletic Association on Wednesday voted to expand the state football playoffs to 12 teams per region starting in 2021. The proposal originally came from the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, and was approved unanimously by the OHSAA Board of Directors.

The new rules will expand will add an extra round to each of the seven divisional brackets, with the top four seeds in each of the 28 regions now getting a bye to the second round. The opening round matchups will be played as follows, with the better seed playing at home:

  • No. 12 seed at No. 5 seed (winner would play No. 4 seed)
  • No. 11 at No. 6 (winner would play No. 3)
  • No. 10 at No. 7 (winner would play No. 2)
  • No. 9 at No. 8 (winner would play No. 1)

The victors in each game would play on the road at their respective top-four opponents, then from the regional semifinals on each game would take place at a neutral site (as is the case now). Although this will add a week of football and teams would still be allowed to schedule up to 10 regular season contests, the 2021 state championships are still set to take place the weekend of Dec. 2-5, meaning the season would likely start a week earlier than originally planned.

"We still have details to work out regarding the format and specific season dates, but this vote by the Board gives us the green light to finalize those details for 2021," Beau Rugg, Senior Director of Officiating and Sport Management for the OHSAA and the Association’s football administrator, said in a statement. "We are thankful for the Board’s support on this proposal, which will bring all the great things of playoff football to 112 additional schools and communities."

Football is the only high school sport in Ohio that does not allow each team to make the playoffs. The sport first added postseason tournaments in 1972, and has continued to expand over the years before adopting the current format of eight teams per region in 1999, followed by the addition of a seventh division in 2013. With the new guidelines, the total number of Ohio high schools to participate in the OHSAA playoffs will increase from 224 to 336 (or 47% of the state schools that play 11-man tackle football).

Participants in the OHSAA football playoffs are determined by a computer rankings system, with strength of victories weighed heavily. For reference, Cleveland Heights in 2019 was the No. 8 seed in Division I's Region 1 with a 9-1 record and a weighted average of 24.7500; under the new system, the following teams would've also made the postseason:

  • No. 9 Stow-Munroe Falls (6-4, 19.5000)
  • No. 10 St. Ignatius (5-5, 19.1438)
  • No. 11 Brunswick (6-4, 16.7000)
  • No. 12 Strongsville (5-5, 15.9000)

RELATED: OHSAA officially cancels spring sports

'IT STILL HASN'T HIT ME': Northeast Ohio high school student-athletes reflect on losing their senior seasons

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