Heading into his final three games of the regular season, Bruce Williams and his Perkins-Tryon High football team might be on the outside looking in when the Class 3A playoffs begin.
Williams and the Demons won’t even get a chance to improve in the District 3A-1 standings from their tie at the bottom because another district game was canceled this week. They will play Prague instead of host McLoud in a game that would likely decide the No. 4 seed out of the district in a normal year.
But, this year and this season haven’t been normal. Games are being canceled each week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s the biggest reason the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association approved new football postseason guidelines Tuesday that would allow for every school to be in the playoffs, if they chose to do so following the regular season finale Nov. 6.
Williams was one of the coaches in the News Press coverage area who was in favor of the proposal. It gives his team a second life after what’s been a tough regular season where the Demons (2-4 overall, 0-3 district) are hoping to right the ship in the postseason.
“The people that aren’t in favor of it haven’t had any hiccups in their season yet,” Williams said. “We’ve only played three district games and it’s against the three best teams in our district, so we have zero district wins, and two of the teams we think we have a good chance of beating have canceled on us without a chance to make those games up.
“So, there’s a chance we’d be on the outside as far as the playoffs are concerned because we couldn’t play games. From a safety standpoint, they’re going to eliminate some of these teams from playing four or five games in a 20-day span.”
The Demons have four district games remaining, and two of those are scheduled as long as things go to plan for the final two weeks of the season. That leaves two more to either schedule mid-week or not play, and the second of those is likely the answer for a P-T team fighting for its postseason life before Tuesday’s announcement by the OSSAA.
“No matter how you look at it, at least at this point, everyone is getting an equal chance to participate,” Williams said. “Whether COVID hits you or not, that’s uncontrollable by anybody, but from the OSSAA’s perspective, they’re giving everyone the chance to compete after the regular season no matter how many games you’ve played.”
Williams added that another reason he’s in favor of including every team in the first round of the playoffs this year is because he knows it won’t become the normal.
“It’s 2020. Is this going to set a precedence for the future? No, it’s not. It’s adding one week to the season. Who knows if it will even do that depending on the outcome. Are there unfair advantages along the way? Sure, but are there disadvantages for good teams because they’re not getting to play their schedule? Sure. Is there a perfect answer? No. Is this the best thing possible? I say yes.”
Longtime Morrison coach Cory Bales also likes the new guidelines. His Wildcats lost a district game last week when Hominy had to postpone to a mid-week game between Weeks 9 and 10.
They also lost this week’s rivalry game with Pawnee because the Black Bears had to cancel due to COVID-19. That’s forced Morrison to play three district games in a nine-day period to hopefully remain one of the playoff teams based on the previous guidelines that based district seedings by the number of district wins.
Now, Morrison (4-2, 1-1) will be playoff bound in mid-November no matter how the final weeks of the regular season play out on the field.
“To be honest with you, I’m just kind of glad something has came out,” Bales said. “We’ve just recently been affected by (COVID-19) because there is no chance to make up the game with Pawnee, because we’re playing three games in nine days already to finish our season. It’s going to be a nightmare.
“Whether you like it or not, there was a decision made and now we all just go with it and do the best you can. At least there is a format out there that we can go by and everybody knows what’s going on. I’ve said all along our plan is to play as long as we can, and we’re tickled to death to get an opportunity.”
Bales added a program rich in history like Morrison isn’t used to being left out of the postseason, so he’s happy for a chance to extend the season by playing games.
“With it being a strange year, it may be the best option to let everybody in – if they choose,” Bales said. “If you give me an opportunity, we’re going to go, because when you don’t go (to the playoffs) over here, it’s not a good thing.”
Perry coach Travis Cole said he likes the fact that everybody can get into the playoffs, even if some opt out or can’t play beyond the regular season. He just wishes the OSSAA would extended the regular season a week instead of the playoffs.
He believes it would have given teams a chance to play make-up games, which would have allowed the OSSAA to keep the rules of district wins counting for seeding the same.
“One thing we thought the OSSAA would do instead of putting everybody in the playoffs, give them an extra week to where if you have make-up games, play that Tuesday and Saturday,” Cole said. “Then start the playoffs a week later instead of having a play-in week. Give us a week to make-up games if you have to, so someone like Hennessey doesn’t have to play four games in 20 days – they can play four games in 28 days.”
Perry (4-2, 3-0) will host Oklahoma Christian School on Friday night to see who remains undefeated in district action.
“I’m just kind of to the point where let’s just go play,” Cole said. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen a week from now or two days from now. Let’s just go play and see where the chips fall at the end of the year.”