Passing on the idea

Area teams not competing vs. other schools

Vindicator file photo / R. Michael Semple The Ursuline Irish and quarterback Brady Shannon, right, won’t be competing in any passing scrimmages in the near future. Several teams opted not to take the chance despite an order that allowed teams to do so — under heavy restrictions — during the pandemic.

The Ohio Department of Health issued an executive order earlier this week allowing for contact and non-contact competition to resume for sports on a short-term basis, but the impact seems somewhat minimal in the Mahoning Valley.

The announcement, which came during Gov. Mike DeWine’s news conference Tuesday and was made by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, also gives area football teams the chance to scrimmage against other schools — with several critical and arduous restrictions, including testing all players and staff.

With the first scrimmage of the season nearly one month away, that sounds like exciting news for area football teams, but not many seem to be jumping at the opportunity to line up against someone else.

“At this point, no, we haven’t (considered it),” said Girard coach Pat Pearson shortly after hearing the news. “I know they just talked about that. We’re just going to keep it in house at this point.”

The following teams also confirmed they will not attempt to scrimmage against another school: Brookfield, Lakeview, Ursuline, Niles, Warren G. Harding, Austintown Fitch, East, Springfield, Liberty, Girard, Hubbard, Mineral Ridge, Poland, LaBrae, Champion, Canfield, Western Reserve and McDonald.

The choice is understandable considering the circumstances and guidelines. The order allows for competitive games and tournaments for contact sports to take place until Wednesday. Open gyms and practices also are allowed with another team. However, according to DeWine, teams must use the following precautions:

– Testing of all players, coaches, athletic trainers, support staff and officials before travel and competition;

– Daily symptom assessments;

– Athletic trainers must wear a face covering while attending to a player;

– Coaches and officials strongly are recommended to wear a face covering, when possible;

– Strict social distancing by players who are not actively engaged in practice or competition and;

– Immediate isolation and medical care for a participant who develops symptoms.

The list is in-depth, would require permission from several levels of a school district and, in most cases, be a financial burden.

“They said the whole team had to get tested and the coaches,” Brookfield coach Randy Clark said. “I don’t know who’s getting tests back that fast, but no, we’re not doing any passing scrimmages.”

Several coaches said they would consider the notion if the restrictions are lessened. Teams currently are allowed to have 7-on-7 passing “scrimmages” against themselves, and that seems to be the way schools are trending.

Pearson, whose Girard Indians have long been known as a team that likes to pass the football, said he would love for his group to sharpen its skills by facing other schools, but he doesn’t think the risk is worth the reward.

“Things change every day,” he said. “It’s crazy. It seems like, when you look at it, there’s a new rule, a new guideline. Definitely, I think you’re at a disadvantage when you don’t get to do those 7-on-7s and those types of situations. It’s something I would like to do, but I would have to follow lead from what’s coming down from the state, the board (of education), our superintendent and our AD (athletic director). I’d go through them before we could make any decisions or choices.”

He’s obviously not alone in his thinking.

Mineral Ridge coach Brian Shaner is a coach who prefers his team competing in as many passing scrimmages as possible in the summer. A former head coach at Rayen, East and Niles, he annually enters his teams into tournaments throughout the Mahoning Valley during June and July.

The calamity of 2020 has altered his methods.

“This year, the approach we’re taking is more inner-squad,” he said. “Not only because it’s what we’re supposed to do and what we’re allowed to do based on the guidelines sent down to us by (the OHSAA) as well as the health department, but our numbers are up this year. We’re competitive through the inner-squad realm.

“Would we like to be able to reach out and get together with other Trumbull County schools? Yes, we would like that,” he added. “Everyone knows Trumbull County is in the red, and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to be doing too much here in the near future So again, we’re going to focus on us in terms of making us better internally.”

The order is on a “short-term basis,” according to Husted.

He said it will be re-evaluated Wednesday, and the results of this trial run could play a role in how the state decides how to move forward in some areas.

“We hope to use this to inform our future decisions as it relates to return to play,” said Husted during the news conference.

On June 22, DeWine and the OHSAA allowed schools to enter “Phase 2” of a campaign to restart sports in Ohio. This allowed contact sports to have open gyms / fields, workouts and training as long as safety measures were followed. The goal of the “Responsible RestartOhio” is to have high school sports back in full swing by Aug. 1.


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