A new high school football league will debut this September in South Dakota. Twelve tribal schools have come together to form the All Nations Football Conference.
The idea of creating a tribal high school football organization began last year during the 2018 high school football season. Attention to players’ safety was one of the points made during the initial discussions.
“We were starting to see, just observing that some of the 11 man schools and in our tribal schools, we're getting about, somewhere between 11 to 15 kids out for football. They might be classified as 11B or 11A, and playing opponents that had 35 to 40 kids on their roster,” explained Lower Brule Superintendent Lance Witte. “Just looking at the disparity in numbers I guess as far as participation, that was the biggest concern that we were seeing. And so we began conversations about maybe we needed to re-look at this for our tribal schools, and come up with another alternative.”
Thus pegged the creation of the All Nations Football Conference.
The next step was getting approval from the South Dakota High School Activities Association to be separate from them in the sport of football. After a few formal meetings, the SDHSAA granted the request and offered their assistance.
“We worked alongside the High School Activities Association through the whole process, because the biggest concern that we had is if we did something like this, is finding referees, or finding officials to officiate the game,” said Lower Brule’s Witte. “I'm very thankful that the High School Activities Association has worked collaboratively with us on this, so that we can have their support as far as finding officials.”
The All Nations Football Conference is a nine-man football league that consists of twelve teams, separated into two divisions – the West and East.
Enrollment #'s 9-11
Red Cloud – 250.132
Oelrichs – 52.605
Crazy Horse – 81.538
Takini – 33.998
Cheyenne-Eagle Butte – 216.150
Little Wound – 298.244
Lower Brule – 80.408
St Francis – 195.074
Marty – 80.348
Flandreau Indian – 190.564
Tiospa Zina – 139.148
Crow Creek – 120.217
Schools were chosen for the All Nations Football Conference based on the percentage of Native American students comprising their student body. Tribal and public schools with an enrollment of 50% or more Native students were sent an invite. Chamberlain, Pine Ridge, and Todd County received invites, but declined the option.
The All Nations Football Conference is on a two-year experimental plan, and with most things new, evaluations will take place and improvements will occur as a result of those. However, even though the league hasn’t ‘officially’ started, it’s already drawing interest from schools in Nebraska.
“I will say this, I’ve already received word from Winnebago, they are planning on joining the league next year,” said Witte. “And we’ve also heard from Omaha Nation that they’re considering it as well.”
All twelve teams in 2019 will play a six game regular season schedule. From there, all of the schools will make the post season. However, the first and second seeded teams in each division will receive a first round bye.
The All Nations Football Conference championship game will take place on Friday November 8th at the Dakota Dome in Vermillion.
2019 All Nations Football Conference Schedule
Crazy Horse @ Cheyenne-Eagle Butte – Friday September 6th
Little Wound @ Crow Creek – Friday September 6th
Oelrichs @ St Francis – Friday September 6th
Marty @ Tiospa Zina - Saturday September 7th
Takini @ Flandreau Indian – Saturday September 7th
Red Cloud @ Lower Brule – Saturday September 7th
Oelrichs @ Cheyenne-Eagle Butte – Thursday September 12th
Crazy Horse @ Little Wound – Friday September 13th
Flandreau Indian @ Lower Brule – Friday September 13th
St. Francis @ Tiospa Zina – Friday September 13th
Marty @ Crow Creek – Friday September 13th
Takini @ Red Cloud – Friday September 13th
Cheyenne-Eagle Butte @ Red Cloud – Friday September 20th
Little Wound @ Takini – Friday September 20th
Oelrichs @ Crazy Horse – Friday September 20th
Tiospa Zina @ Lower Brule – Friday September 20th
Crow Creek @ Flandreau Indian – Saturday September 21st
St Francis @ Marty – Friday September 20th
Week Four – Lakota Nation Invitational (Rapid City)
Red Cloud vs Little Wound – Friday September 27th
Crazy Horse vs Marty – Friday September 27th
Cheyenne-Eagle Butte vs Tiospa Zina – Friday September 27th
Oelrichs vs Takini – Saturday September 28th
Lower Brule vs Crow Creek – Saturday September 28th
St. Francis vs Flandreau Indian – Saturday September 28th
Red Cloud @ Crazy Horse – Friday October 4th
Little Wound @ Oelrichs – Saturday October 5th
Takini @ Cheyenne-Eagle Butte – Thursday October 3rd
Lower Brule @ Marty – Friday October 4th
Crow Creek @ St Francis – Thursday October 3rd
Flandreau Indian @ Tiospa Zina – Thursday October 3rd
Red Cloud @ Oelrichs – Saturday October 12th
Crazy Horse @ Takini – Friday October 11th
Cheyenne-Eagle Butte @ Little Wound – Friday October 11th
Lower Brule @ St Francis – Friday October 11th
Marty @ Flandreau Indian – Saturday October 12th
Tiospa Zina @ Crow Creek – Thursday October 10th
First Round Playoffs
November 8th – Dakota Dome