OUR VIEW: Harrisburg, Sturgis seem like good foes for ESDA year ago, there was talk of expansion in the Eastern South Dakota Conference. At the time, the general idea included possibly adding the two public schools in Rapid City — Central and Stevens — as well as Sturgis and perhaps Harrisburg.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
A year ago, there was talk of expansion in the Eastern South Dakota Conference. At the time, the general idea included possibly adding the two public schools in Rapid City — Central and Stevens — as well as Sturgis and perhaps Harrisburg.
We didn’t like the idea back then, since Stevens and Central have much larger enrollments than the rest of the ESD, which at present includes Mitchell, Yankton, Brandon Valley, Huron, Pierre, Brookings, Watertown and Aberdeen. We also didn’t like the additional travel costs and potential for missed school that would come from adding three Black Hills teams to the league.
The Black Hills schools are scrambling because of a new league forming in Sioux Falls called the Metro Conference, which would include the four schools in the city, plus Brandon Valley. School officials said Brandon Valley still plans to be affiliated with the ESD, however. Now, the ESD has extended invitations to Sturgis and Harrisburg to compete in the ESD for football only, and we find ourselves intrigued by the idea.
Sturgis and Harrisburg have student enrollment numbers that are similar to those already found in the ESD. In grades 9-11 — those are the only grades counted when determining athletic classification — Sturgis has 526 students and Harrisburg has 344, although the latter is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, thanks to its location near Sioux Falls.
Meanwhile, the ESD’s Aberdeen has 891 students in grades 9-11, followed by Watertown (876), Brandon Valley (761), Yankton (687), Pierre (610), Mitchell (574), Brookings (563) and Huron (542).
Sturgis is a long drive, but it’s a trip that only would be required every other year. Mitchell generally takes one road trip to the Black Hills every other season, so that wouldn’t be a change.
Harrisburg is a relatively short drive from Mitchell — only a little more than an hour away.
An unanswered question: What will Brandon Valley do in football? Stay with the ESD or play in the Metro?
If the ESD does become a 10-team conference, we assume traditional nine-game schedules will be automatically set without the need for non-conference match-ups against schools from Sioux Falls or Rapid City, two cities whose schools have as many as three times more students than Mitchell High School and most ESD teams.
Sturgis actually has two possible options. In addition to the ESD invite, Sturgis is being considered as a new member in the Black Hills Conference. That league is made up of Class A schools, while Sturgis is Class AA. Sturgis probably will have to make a decision based upon its own enrollment estimates for the future.
Changes apparently are coming to big-school football. Lately, it’s this recent talk about expanding the ESD.
Separately, a discussion scheduled to take place in the coming weeks will debate whether to form another class for the state’s largest schools, such as those found in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
For the sake of fairness, we still prefer that the largest schools play in their own division. And for the sake of league strength and ease of scheduling, we hope Sturgis and Harrisburg soon find their way into the ESD for football.