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Class 5A football playoff bids won't come easy

Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the six-classification model, but last week they were left to settle for what the Oregon School Activities Association wanted when it came to their football plan.

Instead of a larger bracket or inclusion of a play-in round, which was favored by 5A schools, the OSAA requested a plan for the upcoming four-year time block that involved a 16-team bracket.

During last Monday's meeting of the OSAA's executive board, the athletic directors rolled out a plan that accounts for the top half of the five leagues making up 15 of those 16 playoff spots.

The 16th and final playoff spot will be awarded to a non-qualifying team with the highest power ranking from either the Northwest Oregon or Intermountain conferences. Each of those leagues has an odd number of teams and cannot be divided into upper and lower halves.

That setup, however, works only as long as North Eugene continues to play an independent schedule, as it will do in the 2014 season, instead of competing in the Midwestern League. Should the Highlanders return to the MWL, the final playoff spot would then fall to the highest ranked non-qualifying team from either the NWOC, IMC or MWL.

Once the final 16 teams are configured, the OSAA's power rankings will be used to form the playoff bracket.

As part of the MWL next season, that means Ashland, Crater and Eagle Point will have to finish among the top three in the standings to reach the state playoffs, which will not provide for play-in contests this time around. Their competition will be stiff in Marist, Springfield and Churchill, who each made it into the final 16 for last year's playoff bracket.

The Grizzlies advanced the furthest of that bunch with their run to the state semifinals, while Crater earned its way into the 6A state playoffs with a play-in victory before losing 56-21 in the first round to eventual runner-up Jesuit.

The top four teams from the Northwest Oregon and Mid-Willamette conferences will receive automatic playoff berths, along with the top three from the MWL and top two from the Intermountain and Columbia River conferences.


A PROPOSAL TO amend the OSAA's policy to restrict full contact during football practice to a maximum of three days per week, excluding games, is on the table and could become effective in August should it gain approval from the executive board.

The rule change is being sponsored by the OSAA sports medicine advisory committee and essentially places guidelines to restrict the amount or frequency of full contact during football practice. There currently are no rules Oregon coaches must follow.

The three-day maximum for full contact would begin during the third week of practice.

The committee has defined full contact as:

  • LIVE ACTION: Contact at game speed where players execute full tackles at a competitive pace taking players to the ground.
  • WRAP: Drills run at full speed until contact, which is above the waist with the players remaining on their feet.
  • THUD: Same as wrap but tempo is competitive with no pre-determined winner and the players are not tackling to the ground.

Crater High football coach John Beck, who is on the executive board of the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association, said that the full contact restrictions would have little affect on practice plans if approved by the OSAA.

"Usually, most high school teams on Monday do film review and a short little practice thing so it would be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that you're talking about," said Beck, "and Thursdays aren't heavy banging days anyway. Maybe I'm speaking out of turn but the consensus among the coaches association is that it wouldn't change anything, it would just put protocols in place for that."

Beck said the idea is to limit helmet-to-helmet contact and taking players to the ground, thereby promoting safety and keeping players fresh during the season.

Given the parameters of what is defined as full contact, Beck admitted coaches might need to alter practice plans or drills to accommodate the proposed change.

"I guess it could depend on the kind of offense you run," he said. "Some of the more traditional I-formation or option running teams could potentially change some of the things they do but probably not by too much."

An added benefit for football coaches, however, will be an extra week of preparation before the 2014 season begins on Sept. 4, which is one week later than in the past few years. The first official practice date is Aug. 18, with the season cutoff and playoff dates still holding true to recent schedules.


IN OTHER CHANGES, the OSAA adopted a recommendation by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in basketball that allows players to move into the lane on free throw attempts when the ball is released.

Previously, players could not leave their lane positions until the ball touched the rim or backboard or until the free throw ended.

The change was made as a means to help officials, who were tasked with watching the ball strike the rim or backboard while simultaneously attempting to observe if any players violated the lane-line restrictions. The NFHS committee also determined that the previous practice left insufficient time for the perimeter official to get good angles on the players rebounding misses.

In another rules change, in an effort to eliminate excessive contact on ballhandlers outside the lane area, the committee added an article to the rule book that states a foul while guarding a ballhandler occurs when the defender places two hands on the player, places an extended arm bar on the player, places and keeps a hand on the player and/or contacts the player more than once with the same hand or alternating hands.

Also, the committee expanded Rule 3-5-3 by identifying anything worn on the arm and/or leg as a sleeve, except a knee brace. These items, including tights, will now be permitted but must meet the color and logo restrictions in said rule. Previously, this rule permitted only arm sleeves and leg-compression sleeves.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry