GHSA Football State Finals Dec. 16-18! Playoffs Skipping Thanksgiving Week; New Playoff Overtime Rules Revealed

By Special from the Georgia High School Football Daily by Todd Holcomb | June 9, 2024

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The 2024 high school football championship games will be played Dec. 16-18, five days later than last season, and the five playoff rounds will have an unprecedented Thanksgiving week off, GHSA executive director Robin Hines confirmed Friday morning.

The playoff dates will be Nov. 8-9 (first round), Nov. 15 (second round), Nov. 22 (third round), Dec. 6 (semifinals) and Dec. 16-18 (finals).

The Thanksgiving decision avoids a Friday night conflict with the Georgia-Georgia Tech game. It was announced Thursday that the Tech-Georgia game will be played Nov. 29 in Athens and televised on ABC.

Hines said the Thanksgiving break – marking the first time there won’t be high school football games that week since the GHSA first ran a statewide playoff in 1947 – is a one-time thing related to the SEC Championship game being played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 7, which is later than usual and determines when the GHSA can have Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The SEC championship was played Dec. 2 in 2023.

The GHSA finals will be on a Monday-Wednesday schedule again, as they were last year (Dec. 11-13). The 2023 finals, which marked the return to Mercedes-Benz after a five-year absence, drew record attendance of 50,662 despite no weekend games. The finals were played at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium to lesser crowds on weekends in 2019-22.

The Thanksgiving off-week will come between the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. It is the result of having later finals and not the holiday itself, Hines said, although he noted that Thanksgiving week will be a welcome break.

Not counting 2020, when COVID-19 rescheduling pushed the games until after Christmas, the Dec. 16-18 finals will be the latest on the calendar since the 2003 finals ended Dec. 20.

In other news, the GHSA is changing its overtime procedures. The first two overtime possessions will begin with drives from the 15-yard line with mandatory two-point attempts after touchdowns in the second overtime. Games that reach a third overtime will be settled by single-play two-point conversion attempts from the 3-yard line until there is a winner. The previous rule called for mandatory two-point tries starting at the third overtime with all possessions beginning at the 15-yard line.

The new rule is designed to bring a quicker end to overtime games. The GHSA already had determined that all games must have a winner in 2024. Some teams in the past have voluntarily agreed to let ties stand in non-region games despite rules against it. The GHSA may penalize teams that forego overtime, but the overtime now will be easier to complete. The 2023 Class 2A final was a three-overtime game in which Pierce County beat Rockmart 48-45.

PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Burkhart Savannah Morning News

STORY CREDIT: Georgia High School Football Daily is a free e-mail newsletter produced and owned by Todd Holcomb and Chip Saye. Holcomb is a former lead high school football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and co-founder of the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Saye is a 38-year veteran of the newspaper industry who has covered high school sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Athens Banner-Herald, Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail and Gwinnett Daily News.

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