Five state champions were crowned in late January in the first esports competition conducted through the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and its partnership with PlayVS.
The early-access esports season began in late October with five NFHS-member state associations involved in Season Zero – Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA), Georgia High School Association (GHSA), Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL).
Schools in these states played 12 regular-season matches from late October to early December, with all teams playing the “League of Legends” game. All regular-season matches were played at each team’s high school with no travel involved. However, teams met face-to-face for the state championships in each of the five states in late January, and the matches were streamed on the NFHS Network and Twitch.
“This is an exciting time for high school sports and activities, said Mark Koski, Chief Executive Officer of the NFHS Network, which pioneered the initiative with Play VS. “We are tapping into a new group of students looking to do something they are talented at and enjoy, and now it’s under the supervision of a teacher-coach. These young people are gaining all the positive aspects of being part of a team: confidence, leadership, teamwork and accountability. We couldn’t be more proud of increasing overall participation in this way.”
In Connecticut, the championship match pitted Woodstock Academy and Manchester High School, with Woodstock winning the best-of-three matchup, which was held at Maloney High School in Meriden, Connecticut.
After several years of operating esports as a club program, the CIAC was one of the first states to become involved with the NFHS and PlayVS because of the potential of reaching a new group of students in schools.
“When you look at the value of athletics beyond the competition, it’s the teamwork that you understand,” said Glenn Lungarini, who is in his first year as executive director of the CIAC. “It’s working to achieve something that’s greater than an individual, and those are characteristics and qualities that people in workforces look for in employees.”
In Kentucky, the KHSAA’s Season Zero Esports State Championship was held at Martha Layne Collins High School and matched squads from St. Henry District High School and Boyle County High School, with Boyle County prevailing, 2-0. Martha Layne Collins High School and Wolfe County High School were other semifinalists.
The Georgia state championship, which was held January 30 at Axis Replay, matched Mt. de Sales Academy from Macon, Georgia, and Lambert High School of Suwanee, Georgia. Mt. de Sales, which completed an undefeated regular season, defeated Lambert, winning two of the three matches.
In Rhode Island, the Hextech Hawks of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island, won the inaugural RIIL Esports State Championship, defeating Mt. St. Charles Academy of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, 2-1, in the title match. The championship match was held January 27 at Providence College.
The other Rhode Island schools that advanced to the quarterfinals were Providence Classical High School, Barrington High School, Warwick Rocky Hill High School and Lincoln Davies Career- Tech High School.
In Massachusetts, Shrewsbury High School defeated Newton South High School January 25 at Patriot Place for the Season Zero title.
Competition continued last month with the start of the Spring 2019 season, involving two additional games in addition to League of Legends – Rocket League and SMITE. In addition to the five state associations that participated in Season Zero, schools from two other NFHS-member state associations are involved in Spring 2019 competition – the Alabama High School Athletic Association and the Mississippi High School Activities Association – along with schools from the Texas Charter School Academic and Athletic League.