COLUMBIANA-In the spring the Ohio High School Athletic Association mandated a new rule for this football season, stating that when a point-differential reaches 30 points after the first half, the game clock will only stop after timeouts, the end of a period or a score.
It didn't take long for the change to affect local teams.
With Western Reserve ahead of Columbiana 44-6 at halftime of Thursday's season opener, the game clock ran continuously throughout the second half of the 47-12 Blue Devil rout. It was the first game in Columbiana County to use a running clock under the new rules.
Columbiana coach Bob Spaite and Western Reserve coach Andy Hake were both vocal in their displeasure with the new rule.
"It's an absolutely horrible rule," Spaite said. "It robs some of the younger guys a chance to play on Friday nights. We barely had enough time to get everyone in on Friday. It doesn't help kids one bit."
"I hate it," Hake said. "Nobody that I've talked to likes it. It's really frustrating as a coach that the second-team guys don't get as much playing time. I think the OHSAA is trying to prevent teams from running up the score, but that score (47-12) would have been the same regardless."
Columbiana players were mixed in their reaction.
"It's my senior year, so I only have a little bit of time left," senior Drew Cyrus said. "It was a little frustrating not to be able to run that many plays in the second half."
"We were already down pretty far but it would have still been nice to play a normal, full second half," senior Hunter Durbin said.
Senior receiver Dylan Ferraro could see it both ways.
"It really stinks if you are behind because it takes away any chance of a comeback," Ferraro said. "If I were on the winning team I would like it because it would mean the game is over faster."
According to Spaite-the Region VIII director for the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association-coaches were completely blindsided by the move and were not consulted.
"I didn't hear anything about it until it passed," Spaite said. "I called up our vice president, Mike Pavalansky (Canfield's coach), and he hadn't heard anything about it. It wasn't on any of our meeting notes. Apparently the OHSAA thinks it's just something the coaches are going to have to live with. I don't know anyone who would have voted for it."
In a statement delivered in May, Beau Rugg, the OHSAA's assistant commissioner in charge of officiating, said "First and foremost, this change was proposed out of concern for player safety. Lopsided games aren't good for anybody. The risk of injury goes up and it can be a tense situation for players and coaches."
Spaite does not see the rule delivering on it's promised intention, and thinks the potential consequences outweigh the benefits.
"It was a well-intentioned rule, but if we are so concerned about injuries then why don't we just cut the quarters to five minutes," Spaite said. "Instead, what they are doing is denying kids a chance to play on Friday night. It takes away from the high school football experience and I think it sends the wrong message to kids. It sends the message that it's okay to surrender if you are behind which is not what we have ever taught."
"It does affect us a little bit on the sidelines," Durbin said. "Nobody wants to be in that situation. The game goes by really fast."
Spaite sees the clock rule as part of a larger issue regarding the perception of football.
"In my opinion, the game of football is under siege," Spaite said. "Every time you turn around there are people talking about concussions. It is a tough, physically demanding sport that has become less and less politically correct. Nobody is denying that injuries and concussions are a problem. Some of the advances we've made have been necessary and well thought out such as teaching proper tackling. But there has also been a lot of overreaction and I think this rule is part of that. I don't see it significantly reducing injuries."