With injuries and participation in mind, there will be a major change in Oregon high school football this season, and Salem-Keizer coaches are preparing for the pros and cons.
Junior varsity games, a longtime Thursday night tradition, will be moving to Monday nights, allowing teams to maximize participation, while still keeping player safety a priority.
But the move won’t be easy.
For many high school football programs, Monday is a crucial day of practice. Players and coaches come together to discuss the successes and mistakes from the previous week’s games, and they work on the game plan for the next opponent.
But now, after the varsity plays its game Friday night, the JV team will play that same opponent the following Monday.
So now on Mondays, while the varsity team begins preparation for the next game, the junior varsity team has a game to play that night.
The move allows a larger gap between Friday night varsity and now Monday night junior varsity games, which gives players who play both more time to rest and recover between games.
The OSAA’s rule on weekly participation states:
“A student shall not compete in more than five quarters for the 6A, 5A and six quarters for the 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A each week. To be eligible for six quarters (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A) there has to be a minimum of 60 hours between contests. All players (6A-1A) are limited to 45 total quarters per year during the regular season. The week is defined as running from Tuesday through Monday. Participation in any play in a quarter shall constitute participation in that quarter, no exceptions. If a student appears in more than 45 total quarters during the regular season, the game in which the student exceeds the limit shall be forfeited. 6A and 5A students may be allowed a sixth quarter of participation if the student plays 12 plays or less in any two of the student’s first five quarters that week.”
Brad Garrett, OSAA assistant executive director, said the governing body’s policy helped encourage the move, but did not force it.
“The OSAA did not create policy that forced games to Monday. Now, we did adopt policy that encouraged it,” Garrett said. “The way the policy is structured, basically, if you gap your games and don’t play them back to back, you put that 60-hour gap in, then you earn extra quarters.”
Garrett said that gapping the games by at least 60 hours can protect the health of players.
“Sometimes kids that are concussed, it does not present itself the very next day. It might take a couple of days,” Garrett said. “So it gives a longer period of time to evaluate those types of kids, which is what we want to do to make sure we get it right. Minimizing risk for kids in the game of football is a No. 1 priority.”
In addition to safety concerns, the move also helps coaches increase overall participation in games.
In the past, coaches might limit a player in the junior varsity game just in case the player is needed for varsity. Then if the player is not needed as much in the varsity game, then the week’s playing time was not maximized.
“That kid would get shorted that week,” Garrett said. “The schools that have chosen to move to Mondays have reversed that. Now they can play Friday night’s games, and then can maximize participation on Monday.”
The impact of the move will vary depending on classification and the specific program.