MENNO, SCOTLAND TO CO-OP IN FOOTBALL
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
The South Dakota High School Activities Association is expected to approve a new football cooperative between Menno and Scotland when the board meets in January. School boards from both schools unanimously OK’d the agreement at their regular monthly meeting held Monday, Nov. 9. The Menno vote was 5-0 and the Scotland vote was 7-0.
“That was a very joyous night for me,” said Menno Superintendent Tom Rice. “We are optimistically looking to the future.”
This will be a brand-new chapter for both teams. Menno played as the Menno Wolves before forming a football partnership with Marion in 2013. But the distance between those two towns — 30 miles — became too big of a challenge and prompted Menno to move in a different direction. The 2020 season was the last for the Razorbacks. Scotland, meanwhile, has been playing independently as the Highlanders.
Rice said while most of the major details have been worked out, there are still a few key elements to be decided upon — namely, the team identity. Rice said students from both schools will be a big part of that discussion; “We really want this to be student-driven,” he said, noting that the new cooperative name will either be Scotland/Menno or Jim River. “But I’m not concerned about the team name,” he said. “What I care about is the opportunity we are giving our young men — and if young women want to play, great. We want to represent our communities in the best possible way.”
Rice also said committees have been set up to finalize details and assess the cooperative down the road; those committees include the superintendent, principal and athletic director from both schools, as well as two board members from Menno and Scotland.
“We want a firm footing heading into our first season,” Rice said.
Freeman and Marion
Meanwhile, talks about partnership between Freeman and Marion appear to have stalled.
Meeting in regular session Monday, Nov. 9, members of the Freeman Public School Board gave little indication they wanted to advance the conversation about a sports cooperative and the possibility of consolidation with their closest neighboring district. The conversation — or lack thereof — came after Superintendent Kevin Kunz told the board that adding Marion to the current Canistota/Freeman football cooperative would push them into the 11-man classification and on the cusp of Class A in other sports.
Board members gave no direction to Kunz and, in fact, held little discussion about it.
While board president Kyle Weier said that not looking at some partnership with Marion was “short sided,” others said they were happy with where the current football cooperative with Canistota stood, before moving on to the next agenda item.
Canistota/Freeman has won the Class 9A title each of the last three seasons, including the 2020 championship earlier this month.
In light of that, Marion is now in talks with Parker.
Matt Donlan, who was elected to the Marion School Board earlier this year, told The Courier on Tuesday that an informal meeting between representatives from both school districts was held Monday night, Nov. 23, and that it went well.
“There is going to be a next step,” he said. “We don’t want to slam the door on anybody, but we need to pursue this. We need to do what’s in the best interest of Marion.”
Donlan said a decline in student enrollment is driving the discussion; he said the number of students currently enrolled in grades K-12 is around 190.
“Marion, for years, has been looking for a fair consolidation plan,” he said. “It’s trying to find that win-win, not only for Marion, but for whatever community we work with.”
Donlan said that Marion approached Freeman several months ago — and, in fact, met informally with several board members and Tom Oster, who works with districts on long-term planning — to start a discussion.
“We wanted to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck,” he said, noting that Freeman seemed like a good fit because of its proximity to Marion and the class sizes matched up without becoming too large. “At the time, Marion was willing to go as far or as little along as Freeman was willing.”
But with the Freeman board cool about wanting to continue the conversation, Donlan said Marion is looking elsewhere.
“Freeman didn’t want to take that next step,” he said. “Parker and Marion chose to take that next step.”
Marion is currently in a sports cooperative with Freeman Academy; when asked where that stands, Donlan said, “Marion is willing to look at everything.”