OSSAA adds 'play-in round' for 2020 football playoffs

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

It was only a matter of time before the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association was forced to do something about the number of football games being canceled or postponed during the 2020 season.

The OSSAA did its best to solve the issue Tuesday by adding a “play-in round” to the 2020 state playoffs for every classification. 

“It’s as good a plan as they can possibly come up with in our circumstances,” said Ardmore head coach Josh Newby. “However this plays out in the seeding, we’re going to be happy to play.”

And it is the best-case scenario for the Tigers, who are preparing for just their fourth opponent this season. Ardmore sits at 3-1 overall and 2-1 in District 5A-1, but one of those victories was via a forfeit by Capitol Hill.

Nevertheless, Ardmore can focus on its remaining three regular season games and not have to worry about remaking a postponed contest with Altus.

The same can be said of other area teams that may not have been in the postseason hunt. Dickson is a prime example as the Comets are in seventh place in District 3A-2 after knocking off Little Axe on Friday.

Before OSSAA’s decision, it would’ve been a longshot for Dickson to make the playoffs.

That isn’t the case now.

“It gives us an opportunity to try to win these last three and better our position in the district to get a better matchup for that play-in round,” said Comets head coach Steve Day. “it gives us something to play for moving forward.”

However, it’s important to note that no contests have been canceled or postponed in District 3A-2. That extends to a number of other districts, as well.

“I believe there’s 32 districts state-wide from Class A to 6A and we’re one of six districts that haven’t been flagged because of COVID,” Day said. “We’re kind of fortunate in that aspect. There’s actually two of the districts in Class 3A that haven’t been affected by COVID yet. So hopefully we stay that way.”

And that fact will be important as districts that aren't flagged due to COVID will use the seeding process for advancement from the OSSAA Football Manual.

While "flagged districts” that have dealt with canceled games can choose to use the ranking process to determine final district places for advancement. The ranking process starts the weekend of Friday, Oct. 23 and runs through the end of regular season, which is Friday, Nov. 6.

It's also important to note that if a team can’t play a non-championship playoff game on the scheduled date because of COVID, that squad would be eliminated.

“That team’s opponent in the preceding round will be offered the opportunity to fill that line on the bracket on the scheduled date,” OSSAA said in its press release. “If the preceding opponent declines the opportunity or there is no proceeding opponent as in the case of a bye, the remaining team will advance to the next line.”

One final note is an extra week of football moves back the state championships dates for Class 5A, 4A, 3A and C to the weekend of Dec. 11-12. While Class 2A, A and B would follow on the weekend of Dec. 18-19.