SPARTA – The Highland athletics department is preparing to host a Division VII state semi-final football game Saturday between Cuyahoga Heights and Trimble, and the preparations are already in full swing.
Highland athletic director Mike DeLaney filled out a form put out by the OHSAA earlier this year to put in for a bid to host playoff football games. The form, which is similar to forms filled out to host other OHSAA tournament events, gives the committee who chooses the location a better picture of the facilities. DeLaney estimated it took him nearly half an hour to complete the form for this year’s football postseason.
“It talks about your facility,” DeLaney said. “Do you have turf? Do you have play clocks? Do you have press boxes on both sides? What’s your total seats and parking spots? It’s very in depth.”
DeLaney was asked Friday by the OHSAA that if Trimble and Cuyahoga Heights won their respective matchups Saturday, would Highland be able to host the game and DeLaney accepted, and then the work really began.
When it comes to people sacrificing their time on a Saturday night for two non-local teams, DeLaney said there are a few factors in people feeling compelled to help out.
“It’s all about pride in the school district and pride in the facility,” DeLaney said. “I also get the sense that people get excited to watch other quality athletics.”
DeLaney anticipated a few different snags in solidifying volunteers for Saturday, with it being Thanksgiving weekend and the same day as the Ohio State/Michigan football game, but that has not seemed to deter helping hands.
“It being Ohio State/Michigan weekend is another factor as well, but I still have a lot of people volunteering,” DeLaney said. “It hasn’t been as big of a deal as I thought it would be.”
The Scot AD met with both the Cuyahoga Heights and Trimble athletic directors Monday. The trio walked the facilities and DeLaney gave the respective athletic directors their game balls and pre-sale tickets.
Bringing in people from around Ohio will provide an economic boost to both Highland athletics and the booster club, as well as Knox and Morrow counties. There will be an influx of fans, friends, families, players, bands and cheerleaders to the area.
“I do hope the surrounding community comes out to watch quality football,” DeLaney said. “It’s great to bring people in to our area.”
In DeLaney’s tenure (in his fourth year) with the Scots, Highland has hosted 12 OHSAA events, with Saturday being the 13th. Sparta has been the host of three postseason baseball games, one football game, six volleyball matches, one boys basketball game and most recently a regional soccer final, which was Nov. 3.
“When the turf went in here, and really the gymnasium too, it was the goal to host as many OHSAA events as possible,” DeLaney said.
Saturday’s matchup will pit the Cuyahoga Heights Redskins and the Trimble Tomcats against each other. The Redskins won their regional final over Warren John F. Kennedy, 35-20, while the Tomcats bested Lucas 21-14.
Regardless of who takes the field Saturday, DeLaney hopes for a smooth night.
“When you come in, I want you to feel like you are coming in to my home,” DeLaney said. “I want everything to be taken care of for you.”