It’s August, which means high school football is right around the corner again. For the All Nations Football Conference, they’ve just had their biggest year in the fall of 2021, and there’s excitement surrounding this season as well.
“We started in 19 with twelve teams in our conference. It was a great year, everyone was excited – especially with the number of participants where they were,” said Lance Witte, Superintendent of Lower Brule. “Kind of a reinvigoration of football in Indian country, and people were excited, and then we went into year two, and we were looking at eighteen teams and unfortunately covid hit.”
COVID postponed the 2020 fall season for the newly built high school football league, which turned into a condensed 2021 spring season with a reduced number of teams. However, the All Nations Football Conference rotated in the fall of 2021 and also had a season, which featured teams from South Dakota, Nebraska, and North Dakota.
“We had eighteen teams and I think we had a very successful year as a conference, we ended up with two divisions, we had a 9A and a 9B,” Witte explained. “There was quite a bit of discussion when we went from twelve to eighteen about whether we were going to 11 or 9, in particular we thought some of the bigger schools like Pine Ridge and Todd County would have a preference. to maybe go to 11. At the end of the day, everyone was completely satisfied to play at 9.”
Last season, Tiospa Zina beat McLaughlin 40-18 in the Class 9B title game, while Winnebago (Nebraska) beat Toddy County 62-12 for the Class 9A title.
A key adjustment the league is making this year is the addition of divisions. There are still two classes, but teams will face divisional opponents first, regardless of class, and then fill the remaining matches of their eight-game schedules with a few non-divisional opponents. Divisions are organized based on location, and the idea is that teams will save travel costs and travel time by playing against closer teams.
Cheyenne-Eagle Butte/Tiospaye Topa
Standing Rock (North Dakota)
Omaha Nation (Nebraska)
Ultimately, the goal of the All Nations Football Conference was to increase participation in the sport of football among native schools in the area. For those who work with the league, the success of the past four years is encouraging to say the least.
“I think our dream and vision was to increase participation in our tribal school football programs. We hoped other schools would get involved. I don’t think we ever felt the need to have eighteen teams, but we just wanted to have a better experience,” Witte said. “I was encouraged when some of these schools, like Todd County and Pine Ridge, some of our larger schools were keen to join us, but when they decided to, I was very encouraged – we have to do something good.”
Each team will play an eight-game schedule. Eight teams from each class will qualify for the playoffs with quarter-finals, semi-finals and championship games on the schedule for the post-season. Championship games are Friday, Nov. 4 at the Dakota Dome in Vermillion.
To view team schedules for the two All Nations classes and the seven SDHSAA sanctioned football classes, Click here.