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State title games move to Massillon

COLUMBUS — The Massillon Tigers will have another home football game — in tonight’s Division II state championship.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Thursday morning the six state championship football games are moving to Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium this weekend.

The change comes a day after the OHSAA claimed a stay-at-home advisory by the Franklin County Department of Health due to rising COVID-19 cases would not affect the championship games at Fortress Obetz, located southeast of Columbus.

The schedule remains the same as announced Wednesday. For the Division II title game at 6:15 p.m. today, Akron Archbishop Hoban agreed to play Massillon Washington on Massillon’s home field. It will be the 10th home game for Massillon this season. The OHSAA has designated Hoban as the home team on the scoreboard.

The decision to move the games came Thursday morning after discussions with officials at Obetz and Franklin County. The OHSAA met virtually with the 12 participating schools at 11:30 a.m. to inform them and answer questions.

“Completing this weekend’s state championship games is very important to the schools, student-athletes and communities, so we felt strongly about finding a place to play,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said. “These 12 schools just want to play and we thank them for accepting this change. We would also like to especially thank Massillon Washington High School for stepping up to host, and also Hoban for agreeing to play there.”

Seven of the teams playing this weekend are from Northeast Ohio (Warren JFK, Massillon, Akron Hoban, Kirtland, Chardon, Mentor Lake Catholic and Springfield Local). It will be a shorter trip for Springfield Local fans attending the Division IV state title game against New Bremen at 5:15 p.m. Sunday.

Paul Brown Tiger Stadium served as a host of the OHSAA football state championships from 1990 through 2013. West Branch and Lisbon won their state championships there in 1994 and 1995, respectively.

“This is a big change at the 11th hour, but Massillon Washington can accommodate these games and the number of fans that are permitted to attend,” said Beau Rugg, OHSAA senior director of officiating and sport management and the OHSAA’s football administrator. “We are pleased to be playing football this weekend and are excited that these 12 schools will be able to finish their seasons.”

No tickets are available to the general public. Each school received 750 tickets.

The Franklin County and Columbus health advisory recommends a pause on all extra-curricular activities for schools and asks all persons to be home by 6 p.m. Ohio State University will not allow any fans or family to attend sporting events until further notice.

The Division I championship game between Cincinnati St. Xavier and Pickerington Central was held at Fortress Obetz last Friday.

“Fortress Obetz was excited to host these games and we appreciate all the work that they put into preparations,” Ute said.

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