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Location not always a good fit for playoff teams

The distance between Ohio Heritage Conference rival schools Mechanicsburg and West Liberty-Salem is about 18 miles, northeast of Springfield. But they’re headed to Wapakoneta — at least 60 miles west, near St. Marys — for Friday’s Division VI, Region 22 high school football final.

What’s up with that?

“I don’t know where the issue or the problem was, but it seems a little silly to make two teams that are 15 minutes apart drive an hour-and-a-half to go play,” Mechanicsburg coach Kurt Forrest said Monday.

“I’d rather put the ball down in a cornfield right outside of Urbana and we’ll go play.”

The football playoffs last for five weeks. First-round games are hosted by higher seeds or the venue of their choice. Games switch to neutral sites after that.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association favors artificial surfaces after the first round. Also, facilities must bid to host games.

The OHSAA tries to find stadiums midway between schools that meet its conditions. Other factors such as multiple playoff games within a regional area and rental fees also affect its decisions.

“Among the sites available to the OHSAA to host a playoff game on Friday, Wapakoneta was the best choice for that particular game,” OHSAA director of information services Tim Stried said. “There are a limited number of facilities in the west-central part of Ohio that meet the requirements to host an OHSAA playoff game. Among those possible facilities, not all are available on a given night.”

This isn’t the only game in which the location has been questioned. In D-I, Region 2, top-ranked Colerain (12-0) and defending D-I state champ Moeller (11-1) play on Saturday night at Mason, some 20 miles away from Cincinnati.

Mason’s Dwire Field at Atrium Stadium has a seating capacity of 7,000. That’s less than the announced crowd at last weekend’s Elder-Moeller game at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. The magnitude of a Moeller-Colerain crowd is limited only by the venue.

Wittenberg’s Edwards-Maurer Field is the only stadium in the Springfield area with artificial turf. It has a seating capacity of 3,000.

Piqua and its Alexander Stadium-Purk Field is a closer location for Mechanicsburg and WL-Salem. But that 8,200-seat locale drew the D-III, Region 10 showdown between Tippecanoe (12-0) and Trotwood-Madison (9-2) on Friday.

Northmont also was sought to host the Mechanicsburg-WL-Salem game. Northmont athletic director Robin Spiller said the school is hosting a wrestling preview on Friday and construction of a new high school prohibits hosting another big event on the same night.

“I was surprised when they announced that it was at Wapakoneta,” Forrest said. “I’m not sure why. I know there are a lot of things that go into that decision-making process. I also know that the other schools have to be willing to host a game.”

It doesn’t matter where Alter (11-1) plays, because the Knights have no home field and always bus to a game. They landed the next best thing on Friday, playing defending D-IV state champ Clinton-Massie (11-1) at Welcome Stadium.

On Saturday, Triad (12-0) plays two-time defending state champ Marion Local (12-0) at Piqua in a D-VII, Region 26 final and Hamilton Badin plays West Jefferson in a D-V, Region 18 final at Northmont.

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