Public Meeting Set On Langford Area Football
After lengthy discussion about the future of the Langford Area football program at its regular meeting on Monday, the LA Board of Education decided to hold a public informational meeting on Monday, Jan. 4, at 7 p.m. in the school gym.
Langford Area is looking at a numbers issue in the upcoming years that could make it difficult to compete as a nine-man football team on its own. Currently there are just three boys in the freshman class with one of them playing football. There are four eighth grade boys and two of them play football.
With just three football players in back-to-back classes Langford Area is concerned about being able to field a football team in the coming years.
On Monday Principal Brett Gibbs shared information on several different options for the football program.
Options include continuing to play nine-man football on its own; looking at playing six-man football; or seeking to co-op with a neighboring school.
Langford Area had 24 players on its Class 9B roster this year, including the freshman and two eighth graders, but 13 of those players are seniors. Those kind of numbers would make it difficult to field a team next year even if injuries or sickness were not a factor and possible forfeits or postponements could result.
The school had been eying a move to six-man football when the state had indicated it was going to form a new classification several years ago. But since that time there have not been enough schools indicating an interest in playing six-man to make it feasible at this time.
Langford Area has reached out to four other schools as potential co-op partners. They include Britton-Hecla, Webster Area, Groton Area, and Wilmot.
An informal meeting was held with Britton-Hecla in regard to a short-term co-op agreement for football only. However, such an agreement would bump Britton-Hecla up to Class 11B, and neither school was excited about that. B-H Superintendent Steve Benson did say that the school would be open to discussions about a long-term agreement for all sports in the future.
“We’re not out soliciting, but whenever Langford Area decides they would like to do something long-term, we would be open to having that discussion,” said Benson.
LA Superintendent Monte Nipp said that Webster Area is in a similar position. The school is currently in Class 11B but declining numbers will likely put them back into nine-man football. A co-op with Langford would keep them in the 11-man ranks.
Groton Area discussed the issue at its school board meeting on Monday but Nipp had not yet talked with Groton officials. A co-op with the Tigers would not change its current 11-man classification.
Nipp said Langford Area had previously contacted Wilmot which is currently in a co-op with Waubay-Summit. Wilmot had indicated an interest in six-man football but when that was not an option decided to remain in the coop. If Langford Area was added to the mix, numbers would also move the team up to the 11-man ranks.
Any decision that would affect next year would have to be made in the next month. This year is unique in that classification changes will be in effect for only one year so that the state can align with neighboring states for scheduling purposes. Normally teams are re-classified every two years.
“Because we are in a oneyear cycle it does give us a little bit of time, especially if we want to seek to co-op with another school,” said Nipp. “But we’re trying to leave no stone unturned and look at every option.”
Nipp admitted that football is a different from other sports.
“Football is very much a feeder program where you start with youth football, then hopefully give kids a good junior varsity experience as they work their way up to varsity. You really don’t like to rush things where you have a freshman playing varsity before they are really physically ready.”
Nipp said that if the school decides to continue with its regular football program next year it would likely pull out of the Lake Region Conference for football.
“We would either look at a junior varsity schedule or have the state give us a nonconference schedule,” said Nipp. “Hopefully, the state would have us play schools more similar to us.”
In other action the board updated its COVID-19 quarantine plan per Department of Health recommendations. The school has moved its quarantine time down to 10 days for both positive cases and close contract. Close contacts who show no symptoms may also return to school on the sixth day if they wear a mask through the 10-day period.
The board opted to remain at Tier 1 for winter sports with no limitations on fan attendance. The Department of Health will help the school gauge its response to virus issues in the county, and if cases spike attendance could be limited.
Board member Jenn Gustafson gave a report on the Associated School Boards of South Dakota Delegate Assembly held virtually. The board was also informed that semester tests will run Friday through Tuesday.
The next meeting of the board will be Monday, Jan. 4, at 6:30 p.m. It will adjourn for the public meeting at 7 p.m. and then re-convene following the meeting to discuss the football issue.