Mansfield post-game

Mansfield Senior players and coaches are presented with the state runner-up trophy after a 14-7 overtime loss to Trotwood-Madison in the 2019 Division III state title game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

CANTON — The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s crown jewel is headed back to the birthplace of the NFL.

The OHSAA on Wednesday announced the Pro Football Hall of Fame will host the state high school football championship games for the next three years at the recently-renovated Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The deal runs through 2023.

“The OHSAA is excited for this three-year agreement with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as our student-athletes, schools and communities will get to experience Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium and all that Canton and the Hall of Fame Village have to offer,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said.

“We are grateful to the Hall of Fame for their partnership and we look forward to collaborating with the Hall year-round.”

The Hall of Fame hosted the state finals from 2017 to 2019. The 2020 state championship games were originally scheduled to be played at Fortress Obetz in suburban Columbus but were moved to Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium because of COVID-19 protocols.

“The Hall of Fame prides itself in treating OHSAA football teams and their fans the same way we treat the NFL teams and their fans,” Pro Football Hall of Fame Chief Administrative Officer Steve Strawbridge said. “We give them a first-class experience while they are here. We take the teams through the museum and promote the values of the game.

“We look forward to providing an exceptional experience for the players, coaches, families and fans attending the games in Canton — the pinnacle of football.”

Earlier this year the OHSAA announced the playoffs would be expanded to include the top 16 teams in each of the state’s 28 geographic regions — four for each of the seven enrollment divisions.

The first two rounds of the playoffs will be hosted by the higher-seeded teams before games are shifted to neutral sites for the regional semifinals, regional finals and state semifinals.

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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