COLUMBUS – Several rules changes will go into effect and teams are reminded of preseason practice regulations as 718 schools across Ohio began high school football practice on Monday. Last year, 42,878 high school student-athletes played football in Ohio, the most participants among the OHSAA’s 26 sanctioned sports.
The OHSAA’s fall sports of boys and girls golf, girls tennis, girls volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country and girls field hockey all begin practice on Wednesday, Aug. 1.
An experimental football equipment rule in Ohio last year has been adopted as a national rule this year, which calls for a player with any equipment issue – such as the helmet coming off – to leave the field for at least one play until the equipment issue has been resolved.
Also of note, kickoffs are no longer permitted in freshman games, and they are only permitted in junior varsity games if both head coaches mutually agree. Kickoffs are already not permitted in junior high games.
“Player safety on kickoffs is something being discussed at all levels of football – professional, college, high school and younger,” said Beau Rugg, OHSAA Director of Sport Management and Officiating and the OHSAA’s football administrator. “And at the sub-varsity levels, there isn’t much time spent working on kickoffs, so this will help.”
In games with no kickoffs, the ball will be spotted at the 35-yard line to start halves and after scores. The ball will be spotted at the 50-yard line after a safety.
Another rule change that affects kicks is an added enforcement spot for penalties by the kicking team. For example, on a kickoff that goes out of bounds, the ball can be spotted five yards from where it went out of bounds. Also, a penalty on the kicking team during a punt can be enforced from the end of the play.
The 2018 football regional assignments and playoffs schedule, including the location for the state championship games, were announced back in June. The OHSAA will return to using Saturday nights for several divisions during the playoffs and the 2018 title games will return to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
The OHSAA Board of Directors approved school playoff regional assignments and the playoff schedule Wednesday during its June meeting and authorized the OHSAA Executive Director’s office finalize the contract with Visit Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame to host the 2018 finals. The regional maps, which show the number of schools within each region, and the lists of schools in each region are posted at:http://www.ohsaa.org/sports/football
In November, playoff games in Divisions I, II, III and VI will be played on Fridays, while Division IV, V and VII playoff games will be played on Saturdays. Last year, the OHSAA experimented with having all playoff games on Friday nights during the first four rounds. In addition, all playoff games will kick off at 7 p.m. Previously, Friday playoff games kicked off at 7:30 p.m.
“We still have good attendance throughout the playoffs, but the overall total attendance dropped in 2017 when we moved all the games to Fridays,” said Beau Rugg, OHSAA Director of Officiating and Sport Management and the OHSAA’s football administrator. “Some parts of the state liked staying away from Saturdays for playoff games, but we also received quite a bit of feedback, mainly from the smaller schools, that they hoped we would return to having games on Saturdays, too, so their communities could see two games per weekend instead of one.”
The specific dates and times for the state championship games in Canton will be announced after the state semifinals November 23 and 24.
Statewide regular-season schedules, along with divisional breakdowns and region assignments, are posted at: http://www.ohsaa.org/Sports-Tournaments/Football/Football-2018
Preseason practice notes
Teams must follow the five-day acclimatization period. During practices within the acclimatization period, players may wear helmets only on the first two days. On days three and four, helmets and shoulder pads are allowed. From day five onward, full pads are allowed. Prior to the sixth day of practice, no full contact is permitted. During the first five days of practice, athletes may engage in conditioning, speed, strength and agility drills and may use “dummies” for drills and walk-throughs. All athletes joining the team for the first time at any point during the season must participate in a five-day acclimatization period prior to any contact drills.
Coaches must ensure that there is adequate recovery time between practice sessions. Sundays, August 5 and 12, are mandatory days off.
After full contact is permitted, teams must also adhere to the OHSAA’s contact regulations.
Head, heat and hydration
The OHSAA reminds student-athletes and coaches to follow the proper medical regulations when there is any chance a concussion may have occurred. Those regulations and other helpful tools are posted at: http://www.ohsaa.org/concussionresources