OHSAA sets football divisions

After several weeks of some anxious waiting, football coaches around the Buckeye State received word of what division and region their teams will be competing in for the next two years Thursday morning.

At its Board of Directors meeting in Columbus, the Ohio High School Athletic Association finalized the new seven-division format for the upcoming grid season.

The official release of the divisions was delayed a month from two years ago because of numerous issues of enrollment figures being challenged by the membership.

The majority of area schools remained with the same cluster of teams, but just changed their divisional number. The only school that didn’t change was River, which remained in Division VI.

Buckeye Local continues to be the immediate area’s biggest school and will compete in Division IV, which includes schools with between 213 and 280 males.

In Division V, which stretches from 156-212 in enrollment, includes Harrison Central, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville and Union Local.

Joining the Pilots in Division VI, which includes enrollments stretching from 112-155, are Barnesville, Bellaire, Buckeye Trail and Monroe Central.

Beallsville, Bridgeport, St. John Central and Shadyside will be the local teams in Division VII.

Cambridge is the largest OVAC member and is the lone conference-member school to be competing in Division III.

Some other teams of note include: Youngstown Ursuline (D-V), Columbus Bishop Hartley (D-V), Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (D-IV), Clarksville Clinton-Massie, which defeated St. C. in the Division IV state final last December, remains in Division IV. Delphos St. John and Maria Stein Marion Local are in Division VII, but defending Division VI state runner-up Newark Catholic remained in that division.

The OHSAA also finalized the regional assignments for the team. The majority of area teams will compete in regions in which include the southeast and more central portions of the state. The last two years, the area’s then Division V and VI schools were assigned to the region in Northeast Ohio.

The lone area school that’s heading that way for the next two years is Harrison Central.

The OHSAA announced last year it was adding a seventh division to help close the huge gap in enrollment in Division I. There are now only 72 schools in Division I, thus a trickle-down effect began into the six other divisions.

The other divisions are basically balanced with numbers stretching from 105 schools in both Divisions VI and VII to 109 schools in Division IV. Divisions II and III both have 108 schools battling for the 32 playoff bids. All told, there will be 715 schools fielding a football team this fall.

In Division I, there will be two regions – North and South – with 16 teams from each region qualifying for the postseason. The other five divisions playoff formatting will remain the same with the top eight schools in each region securing a spot and the top four seeds hosting in the opening round.

One minor change comes in the days of the tournament. Divisions II, III, IV and VI will play their playoff games on Friday nights throughout the tournament, while the other three divisions will play on Saturday.

One of the state finals will be contested on Thursday, but the OHSAA isn’t expected to formally announce which division that will be until after the semifinals.

The other fall sports, including golf, cross country, soccer and volleyball, will have their divisions announced next Wednesday, according to the OHSAA.