By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
MIAMI COUNTY — When given a chance to discuss the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s new “mercy rule” for high school football, very few county coaches showed any mercy of their own.
“I don’t like it,” Troy High School football coach Scot Brewer said. “I think it plays to something that is going on in our society. It’s like there is a softening in our society.”
Wednesday, the OHSAA announced a new rule regarding football games that will take place this fall. According to the new football point differential regulation — more commonly referred to as the “mercy rule” — “After the first half, any time the score differential reaches 30 points or more for 11- man football, the following changes, and only these changes, will be made regarding rules determining when the clock will be stopped. The clock will be stopped when: 1) An official’s time-out is called either for an injured player or following a change of team possession; 2) A charged time-out is called; 3) At the end of a period; 4) A score occurs. The clock will start again on the ready for play signal for the first play after the above situations.”
A number of Miami County coaches are not in favor of the rule.
One such coach is Covington’s Dave Miller. If recent history is any indication, his team will be affected more than any other in Miami County by the new “mercy rule.” In 12 games last season — 10 regular season games and two playoff contests — Covington outscored the opposition by an average score of 43.5 to 9.0. Of the 12 games the Buccaneers played last season, all but three — including a regional semifinal playoff game — would have been played under the OHSAA’s new rule.
While Miller isn’t a proponent of running up the score and would frequently pull his starters when games got out of hand — star tailback A.J. Ouellette only played in 30 of a possible 48 quarters last year — he is worried how much varsity playing time his younger players will get under the new rule.
“The biggest thing I see happening is younger kids not getting a chance to play in varsity games on Friday nights, which is a huge experience for them,” Miller said. “Last year we were in a lot of situations where we were able to get younger kids a lot of playing time and under this new rule, we will not be able to continue to do that as much, which is unfortunate.
“I know there are a lot of people who would say Saturday mornings (in junior varsity games) are a chance for the younger kids to play, but that’s not the same as playing under the lights on a Friday night.”
Piqua coach Bill Nees was one of the lone voices of dissent when it came to the new rule and points to a caveat within the rule that allows for a team to stage a comeback. According to the new rule, “After the 30 point difference has been met, if the score drops below 30 points the clock reverts to regular timing.”
“I think the rule serves a good purpose,” Nees said. “Once the running clock starts if you are 30 points down, if you are able to pull within 30 points, it goes back to regular timing — so it gives you a chance to make a comeback. So from that standpoint, I think it sounds like a pretty good rule.”
Still, though, many of his coaching brethren within Miami County disagree.
Brewer, in particular, knows how it feels to be on the wrong end of a blowout — but still doesn’t support the rule. Last season, Trotwood-Madison defeated Troy 72-6 in a game that was 52-6 by halftime.
“I suffered the worst beating in the history of Troy football,” Brewer said. “As much as I may have wanted the clock to run, I also understood it was a situation where Trotwood was clicking on all cylinders and we couldn’t tackle in the defensive backfield that night. But it’s great getting young guys in and getting them the chance to play. You play the (darn) game for a reason and you learn from it. The next week we came out and won, so maybe we did learn something from that.”
Few coaches have been on both sides of blowouts more than Miami East’s Max Current. When he arrived at Miami East in 1999, he inherited a team in the midst of a 40-game losing streak — and blowout losses were the norm. Since then, however, he’s built the Vikings into a playoff team and frequently his teams are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
He does not support the new rule.
“I don’t like it,” Current said. “For one, you are getting less playing time for your younger guys — and you are talking about a big different between playing on Friday night under the lights and playing on Saturday mornings. Second, you always talk to your guys about finishing strong and battling back. Even if you are down by a bunch of points, maybe you put some younger guys in and they put a couple of scores on the board. They finish strong and it makes them feel pretty good about themselves.
“Sure, there may be times as a coach when you are getting shellacked and you just want to get the game over with, but I also remember a time when we were playing Greenon in 2005. They were pretty good that year — they won the league — and they were just beating (heck) out of us. I had a starting linebacker in there who wasn’t doing what he was supposed to do, so I put a freshman in there and he was able to get some snaps. That was a huge deal for him. If you are talking about a running clock, you could be looking at a situation where you may only get two possessions in the entire second half. You are cheating a lot of younger guys out of potential playing time.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong