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PIAA inches closer to offering scrimmage alternative for junior varsity football

JOHN ERZAR
(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
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The PIAA came closer to offering an alternative to junior varsity football rather than just playing a game.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously on Monday to allow a scrimmage or game with modified kicking rules to be also used. The vote was the second time the board passed the proposal although there were a few tweaks from the original plan passed in May. It must pass again at the July meeting to be enacted in time for the 2020 season.

The scrimmage would have each team run 10 plays and alternate. Teams would run a maximum of 40 offensive plays each, with a five-minute break and a three-minute warmup period after each team ran 20 plays. There would be no kickoffs and each 10-play segment would start on the offense’s 25-yard line. Punts and extra point attempts would be dead upon the kick.

The scrimmage would have a 90-minute time limit. Both schools must agree to scrimmage rather than playing a game. One change from the original proposal is that coaches wouldn’t be allowed on the field.

PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi said he wasn’t against scrimmages, but was concerned teams would opt for 10 junior varsity scrimmages instead of playing games.

“I think we’re missing the whole point that’s the idea,” District 3 chairman Doug Bohannon said. “I don’t know why we’re worried about if they have three scrimmages, five scrimmage or eight scrimmages. It’s giving an opportunity for many JV teams that can’t play (a game). They’re either not going to play or follow this policy. I don’t know why having eight scrimmages or five scrimmages is an issue. That’s just my opinion.”

District 11 chairman Bob Hartman agreed there should be no limits on scrimmages vs. games on the junior varsity level.

“The one thing we see locally here is we lose JV games at the end of the season rather than at the beginning of the season,” Hartman said. “Varsity teams get banged up and there are less kids available for Monday nights (for JV football). There is more of a likelihood for us to scrimmage later in the year than earlier in the year.”

Suspending protocol? Bohannon asked the board to suspend protocol of having a proposal pass three readings before becoming official. His concern was if the board waited until the July meeting, the scrimmage options wouldn’t be able to be implemented in time for the 2020 season.

However, male officials representative Kevin McNamara asked for the board to hold off a final vote until the Officials Council had a chance to review the proposal. Lombardi assured the board if it passes the proposal in July it will used this coming season.

The other option besides a game or scrimmage would be for a game with modified kicking game rules. A team would start a possession on its 35-yard line to to begin each half or after a score. Following a safety, the ball would be placed on the defense’s 45-yard line.

Punts would be marked off 35 yards from the previous line of scrimmage. Field goal and point-after attempts would take place under normal game conditions. Timing would be just like a regular game.

Lombardi said the kicking game modifications were “borrowed” from the Oregon School Activities Association, that state’s equivalent of the PIAA.