May 18—Joe Quintal Field will be the center of activity for the All-Nations Football Conference.
The football league, which is made up of Native American schools, will play its spring semifinals and finals at Mitchell's turf field. The semifinals are Friday and the championship game is Thursday, May 27.
Lower Brule Superintendent Lance Witte, who was instrumental in forming the league in 2019, said the league members only considered Mitchell when picking a site.
"We just thought it was a nice, central location and a nice facility," Witte said. "It just made a lot of sense when you look at McLaughlin to Winnebago and you put a dot somewhere in the middle. Mitchell is not too far away. That's where we started looking and that's where we landed."
After the 2020 fall season was canceled due to the pandemic, Lower Brule, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, Marty, McLaughlin, Tiospa Zina, Omaha Nation (Neb.) and Winnebago (Neb.) opted to play this spring.
The seven schools are between 73 miles and 266 miles away from Mitchell. The semifinals pit No. 1 Tiospa Zina (5-0) vs. No. 4 Omaha Nation (2-3) at 4 p.m. and No. 2 Winnebago (4-1) vs. No. 3 Lower Brule (3-2) at 7 p.m.
Lower Brule (100 miles) is closest to Mitchell of the four remaining schools. Winnebago (172), Tiospa Zina (175) and Macy, Nebraska's Omaha Nation (183) are all under 200 miles away from Mitchell.
Witte added the league felt it would be easier logistically to hold the semifinals and finals at the same site.
"We thought if we could get in the middle and if we can throw it into kind of a package deal, that we would play all three games there," Witte said. "It seemed like a good place to be."
This spring, the seven teams played five games apiece between April 9 until May 14. Witte said the numbers weren't as strong as the 2019 fall season, but still deemed it a success. The league will return this fall.
"I am glad we don't play this every year in the spring," Witte said. "It's been a very challenging season to try to put together, but for this one time, I believe the teams that played this spring or fortunate enough to play this spring will be a lot further ahead than the ones that weren't able to."
In the fall, the league will continue with its regular season. Despite the 2020 fall season being wiped out, the league has attracted more schools. In addition to the seven schools playing this spring, Red Cloud, Oelrichs, Takini, Little Wound, Crazy Horse, Crow Creek, St. Francis, Marty, Pine Ridge, Todd County and Standing Rock (N.D.) will round out the 18-team league.
In the fall, the teams will be split into two nine-man classes: 9A and 9B. They will play an eight-game schedule before the playoffs. The classes will be determined by average daily membership (ADM) and they will be on a two-year scheduling cycle, similar to the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
The league will also return to Vermillion's DakotaDome for its championship games on Nov. 6.