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Debate continues about the future of the Ohio high school football playoff system

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 18:47:26-04

CINCINNATI — Anderson football coach Evan Dreyer likes the playoff format this season so much that he hopes it continues in the future.

"I'm totally 100% all in -- everybody should make the playoffs because this year has been the most fun," Dreyer said. "Because you are talking about playoffs early on in the season. You're talking about non-league matchups, league matchups that everybody wants to play. And as a coach I love that the kids get a sense of the playoffs."

The Ohio High School Athletic Association is in its third week of a very unique postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The regular season was shortened to six games.

Coaches voted for seeding in each of the seven divisions instead of using the computer points system, also known as the Harbin system.

Teams also had the option to opt out of the playoffs, or once eliminated they may continue to play regular season games until mid-November.

"For some schools it is very difficult to schedule games with the Harbin rating system," La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin said. "Hopefully, if everyone gets into the playoffs, scheduling will be easier. I don't see many negatives from the system this year; everyone who wants to play in the playoffs is in; if you don't want in, you can schedule additional games. If you lose early, you can fill out the rest of your schedule. It all seems very reasonable."

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The La Salle football team will host Little Miami in a Division II, Region 8 quarterfinal Friday night at Lancer Stadium.

This season is the first time since the OHSAA playoffs were implemented in 1972 that all Ohio teams were eligible for the postseason.

In years past, the computer points system, or Harbin system, gave an indicator on the number of quality wins for a team during a 10-week regular season and would determine playoff seeding.

"I was a purist, always been a purist with the Harbin system, but at the same time being a team that is struggling a little bit -- we started out hot and now we've struggled," Talawanda coach Larry Cox said late last month. "You do have that carrot at the end to keep them engaged. I enjoy that every team is getting in. I think it's a good thing. "

Still, other Cincinnati-area coaches would prefer that not every team is automatically enlisted in the postseason in future seasons.

"I'll be frank with you -- I'm not a fan of it," Indian Hill coach Tony Arcuri said. "One of the things that I've valued about high school football in Ohio is that the playoffs are an earned privilege. So I'm all for that. I'm all for earning your way in."

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Indian Hill football coach Tony Arcuri is in favor the computer points system to determine the playoff berths for 2021 and beyond.

Most Cincinnati-area coaches say they understand the unique circumstances of this season during the pandemic, in which the OHSAA had to adjust based upon the Ohio governor's office.

Several just say they would prefer the computer points system in 2021 and beyond.

"I don't like the idea of all teams making the playoffs at all," Ross coach Kenyon Commins said. "I think it is a good format in other sports but not for football. I don't know what a No. 1 seed in (Division I) Region 4 would get out of playing an 0-9 bottom seed who is limping toward the end of the year. That's not a good scenario for student-athletes on either team."

Ohio High School Football Coaches Association president Tom Pavlansky and OHSAA football administrator Beau Rugg are in favor of the computer points system.

In May, the OHSAA announced that 12 teams per region would be eligible for the 2021 playoffs instead of only eight like in recent years prior to this season. That may be the happy medium at the moment.

"I am not in favor of everyone making the playoffs but am in favor of the 12-team model," Sycamore coach Scott Dattilo said. "I feel 12 teams includes the best teams and those who had solid years. If your team is 13th or below, let's face it, you probably have a losing record and didn't earn the playoff position.

"With that being said, I am very appreciative that the OHSAA thought outside of the box and allowed everyone in this year."