There will not be a fourth straight Division V state championship football game between Central Catholic and Coldwater this fall. The new competitive balance formula applied by the Ohio High School Athletic Association guarantees it.
Central Catholic will stay in Division V this fall, while Coldwater will drop to Division VI, according to the new postseason alignments for fall sports approved by the OHSAA on Thursday. Central would have dropped to Division VI under the old system that based division assignments solely on enrollment. The new competitive balance formula adjusts a school's enrollment count based on factors such as roster size, residency in a district with at least one parent and open enrollment.
Head coach Jeff Lindesmith expected the Crusaders to stay in Division V.
"I wasn't looking to move down and I don't think our (competitive balance) number changed or was really big," Lindesmith said. "We were a small Division V, and I thought we probably would stay the same just because of the district and some of the school kids we had in."
Central and Coldwater have met for the Division V state title every year since 2014. The Cavaliers won the first two meetings. The Crusaders drove 92 yards in the final two minutes and beat Coldwater last year, preventing a three-peat.
A good postseason rivalry between the two teams developed.
"Isn't that something?" Lindesmith said of Coldwater's drop. "It was kind fo fun. I would do it four years in a row if we could."
Coldwater's fall to Division VI is not a surprise when you consider all the factors involved.
"If you're close to the bottom of your division and you have no open enrollment, the ones in the division below you who have a high competitive balance number are going to pass you up," OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross said. "They basically moved down because of where their kids come from. All of their kids come from Coldwater."
The new competitive balance formula does not drastically affect most Stark County football teams.
Perry will be the team most affected. The Panthers, Division II state runners-up to Cincinnati La Salle the past two years, moves back to Division I for the first time since 2014. The competitive balance formula added 21 to Perry's enrollment total, pushing the school 16 spots higher than the high end of the Division II limit.
Hoover's competitive balance enrollment adjustment will drop the Vikings to Division II for the first time since the OHSAA went to seven divisions in football. St. Thomas Aquinas, a perennial Division VI playoff contender, falls to Division VII. The rest of the county schools will compete in the same division they did in 2016.
OHSAA schools approved the current competitive balance system in 2014 after three previous proposals were voted down. It originated after a group of Wayne County superintendents spearheaded a movement to have separate postseason tournaments for public and private schools.
"It was our feeling, very strongly, that we have some of the best tournaments in the country and we'd really like to keep our schools together," Ross said. "... We put people together from all over Ohio. It was rural, it was urban, it was suburban, it was administrators, coaches, ADs and principals. We said to them, 'Put all the baggage at the door. We need to come in and let's look at what we can do to make this system better for all the kids in Ohio.'
"I can't say enough about the committee. The committee has worked really, really hard, and I think you would have been really, really proud. At the end, you would have not been able to tell whether somebody was urban, rural, suburban, non-public or public. They came together as 27 people and made decisions they thought were going to be good for all the kids in Ohio."
The only fall sports affected by the competitive balance formula are football, boys and girls soccer and volleyball. Winter sports divisional breakdowns for boys and girls basketball will be presented to the OHSAA's Board of Trustees in June. Spring sports divisional breakdowns for baseball and softball will be presented in August.
Ross admits the current system isn't perfect. Any competitive balance committee recommendations to tweak or change aspects of the system must be approved by the OHSAA Board and member schools.
Long term, Ross doesn't anticipate massive changes.
"We're willing to look at anything anybody believes would help make that system better," he said.
Louisville boys soccer and Fairless volleyball are the only other Stark County teams that will be affected by the new system this fall. Louisville will drop from Division I to II, while Fairless will move up from Division III to II.
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Here’s a look at the 2017 Ohio High School Athletic Association divisional assignments for Stark-area football teams:
Perry (moved up from Division II)
Hoover (moved down from Division I)
West Branch (moved down from Division IV because of Competitive Balance)
Central Catholic (would’ve dropped to Division VI if not for competitive balance)
St. Thomas Aquinas
NOTABLE STATE-WIDE CHANGES
Hoban moves up to Division II
Cle. Benedictine moves up to Division II
Mentor Lake Catholic moves up to Division II
Glenville moves down to Division III
Aurora moves down to Division III
Mansfield moves down to Division III
Chardon ND-CL moves up to Division III
Col. Hartley moves up to Division III
Woodridge moves up to Division III
Poland moves down to Division IV
Coldwater moves down to Division VI
Norwayne moves down to Division VI
Garaway moves down to Division VI
Mogadore moves up to Division VI
Cuyahoga Heights moves down to Division VII