Offseason football questions answeredFor the next two years, high school football in South Dakota’s biggest towns will be going through a major redesign.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
For the next two years, high school football in South Dakota’s biggest towns will be going through a major redesign.
Earlier this year, the board of directors for the South Dakota High School Activities Association approved the addition of the 11AAA football class, a move that will take effect starting with the 2013-14 school year. The seventh, experimental class will exist for at least two seasons and is splitting the current Class 11AA into two groups, based on enrollment size.
The Mitchell High School football team will play in 11AA, while most of the Sioux Falls schools will be in the 11AAA class.
In addition to the new class, the Eastern South Dakota Conference is expanding with the addition of Harrisburg.
Some ESD teams are classified as 11AAA teams, while others are 11AA teams. This year, Harrisburg played in Class 11A, but it has expectations to grow in the coming years.
All the changes have prompted many questions about the future of football in Mitchell, the ESD and in the big-school divisions in general.
Following are answers to some of the most common questions about the 2013 football season.
- As of today, what teams are expected to be in Class 11AAA and what teams are in Class 11AA?
The eight teams that will play 11AAA — in order of active daily membership, or enrollment of grades 9-11 and based on the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, which is listed in parenthesis — are Sioux Falls Washington (1,643), Sioux Falls Roosevelt (1,555), Rapid City Central (1,542), Sioux Falls Lincoln (1,467), Rapid City Stevens (1,234), Aberdeen (891), Watertown (876), and Brandon Valley (761).
The eight teams that will compete in 11AA are Yankton (687), Pierre (610), Mitchell (574), Brookings (563), Sioux Falls O’Gorman (549), Huron (542), Sturgis (526), and Douglas (522). Other teams that are likely to move to 11AA are Harrisburg (344) and pearfish (449). Both of those schools currently have ADMs below the 450 mark, which is needed to be classified as an 11AA or 11AAA school, but are likely to jump above when the ADMs are refigured in January.
Any 11AA team can petition up to 11AAA if it desires. If that happens, an 11AAA school can opt down to 11AA.
- Many have speculated that Sioux Falls O’Gorman will petition up to Class 11AAA, to stay in step with its traditional city rivals. If that happens, will Brandon Valley drop down?
Brandon Valley is classified as an 11AAA football team next year and is the first school to have an opportunity to drop down to 11AA if one of the 11AA schools, such as Sioux Falls O’Gorman, decides to petition up.
Brandon Valley Activities Director Randy Marso said the school has not discussed the possibility of dropping to 11AA if O’Gorman or another school petitions up to 11AAA.
“Haven’t even considered it and we’re not going to unless we need to,” Marso said. “Ultimately, it will be a school board decision.”
Earlier this month, Brandon Valley lost to Sioux Falls Washington in the 11AA state championship game. Marso said the school is very proud of its season, but added it was just one year and the team’s success will now sway his opinion on whether to drop to 11AA if given the opportunity.
“I really haven’t discussed a lot with my coaches, because I didn’t want to during the season,” Marso said. “My opinion will depend on what my coaches think, what the administration thinks and what the public thinks. … We’re not avoiding it, but we’re not going to deal with it unless we need to. If O’Gorman says they’re staying where they’re at, it’s a done deal and we’re triple-A right now.”
O’Gorman Athletic Director Steve Kueter could not be reached for this report, but SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand knows O’Gorman is at least considering the move up.
“Their board is to be meeting sometime this month to make their decision known. Once we hear from their group, we’ll go to the next teams to see if they want to drop down a class,” Krogstrand said.
- What’s the Eastern South Dakota Conference going to look like next season and how will games be scheduled?
The Eastern South Dakota Conference will have nine teams. They include Mitchell, Pierre, Huron, Watertown, Aberdeen, Brookings, Yankton, Brandon Valley and Harrisburg.
In football, starting next year, all ESD teams play a six-game conference schedule as opposed to the traditional seven-game conference schedule.
For football, the league will be divided into three pods, based on geography. Although they’re not officially named, they include Aberdeen, Watertown and Brookings in the northernmost pod; Mitchell, Pierre and Huron in the middle pod; and Yankton, Brandon Valley and Harrisburg in the southernmost pod.
Each team will play all of the teams in its pod, and then two of three teams from each other pods. For instance, Mitchell will play Pierre and Huron each season, but only two teams from each other pod.
Next year’s MHS schedule already is announced. The Kernels will not play Brandon Valley or Aberdeen.
- So what is Mitchell’s official 2013 schedule?
Aug. 31 at Yankton; Sept. 6 home vs. Harrisburg; Sept. 13 at Pierre; Sept. 20 home vs. Spearfish; Oct. 4 at Sioux Falls Roosevelt; Oct. 11 home vs. Brookings; Oct. 18 at Watertown, Oct. 24 home vs. Huron.
- How will an ESD Conference champion be determined?
A conference champion will be based off the nine teams’ final record.
The team with the best record against other ESD opponents will be determined the champion. If multiple teams finish with the same record they will be named co-champions. A head-to-head game will not serve as a tie-breaker.
“It will stay just like it’s always been,” Marso said. “For example, in 2011 (Brandon Valley) had one loss in the conference and so did Yankton. Brandon Valley beat Yankton, but we were determined as co-champions.”
Despite not playing all of the teams in the conference, will there be a true champion crowned each year? Marso thinks so.
“As much as there ever has been a true champion,” he said. “Yeah, you don’t play everybody, but that’s the way they’ve done it in some college conferences. But it’s not much different than we’ve done it in the past.”
- What’s the status of Harrisburg? Will the school be large enough to play in 11AA next year? Will it play a full conference schedule since it’s in its first year with the ESD?
In April, Harrisburg’s school board unanimously approved the ESD’s invitation to join the conference.
Harrisburg Activities Director Scott VanDerMillen is anticipating the school’s ADM to be from about 459 to 466.
To be classified as an 11AA team in football, a school must have an ADM of at least 450.
“We’ll be over that mark, just like all the other double-A schools,” VanDerMillen said. “We’ll be very similar to all of the other ESD teams next year.”
- How many 11AA and 11AAA teams make the playoffs? How will the new format affect the state championship weekend?
Eight teams will make the playoffs in each class. There could be more than eight teams in both 11AA and 11AAA, depending whether teams petition up or if more schools surpass the ADM mark of 450. If there are 10 schools in Class 11AA, two will miss out on the playoffs and the top-seeded team will play the eighth-seeded team in the first round.
Next year, the 9A, 9AA and 11A championship games will be played on Thursday, Nov. 14.
The 9B and 11B championship games will be Friday, Nov.15 in the morning session, while the 11A title game will be played as an evening session at 7:30.
The 11AAA championship game will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 — just hours after South Dakota State and USD play a noon game at the DakotaDome.
Krogstrand also said there would be a change in the playoff scheduling leading up to championship weekend for the highest two classes of football.
“For the double- and triple-A classes, looking at next year’s dates, the seventh, eighth and ninth of November would be the semifinal weekend,” he said. “October 31 would probably be the quarterfinal game. But everyone else, meaning nine-man, 11A and 11B would stay on that Tuesday, Monday, Saturday rotation