Teams from across the state start working their way to the Dakota Dome for November’s championship games. But one school in southeast South Dakota won’t get anywhere near the post season this year—a low student enrollment doesn’t give the Centerville Tornadoes enough players to field a varsity team.
Centerville High School has definitely seen better days in football. In 1994, the Tornadoes won a state championship, just 25 minutes down the road in Vermillion. But Centerville did not win a single game last year, and had just one win the season before. With only about a dozen high school players available, not enough to field a team even in 9B, the state’s smallest classification, the school district decided to prepare for the future by playing a junior varsity schedule this year. Pat Sees is the head football coach at Centerville. He says the atmosphere is different among his players this year.
“They’ve had an adjustment. You know, it’s been a little bit of an adjustment period. But I think they’ve done a pretty good job of buying in to what we’re trying to do, and putting all that stuff about varsity or junior varsity back in the back of their minds. You know, they’ve had a good couple of days of practice here recently, and I think they’re kind of over that hump, you know, and hopefully they can have a good game and we can leave that further behind us,” says Sees.
The Tornadoes had a short trip to Parker to open their season, with the first home game next week against Canistota. Centerville Athletic Director Doug Edberg says a lot of schools in the region have been willing to help his team out.
“We’re fortunate we had some teams in the area that have a bye week, and were willing to give up their bye week to have their JV play our JV. So of our seven games, there are only two of them that don’t take place on a Friday night. So, I think it’s still gonna have the Friday Night Lights feel to it—and our kids are gonna approach it like it’s another Friday night game. And, I think our crowd will come and support ‘em whole-heartedly, and we’re gonna give some local area school kids the opportunity to get that Friday night feeling too," explains Edberg.
Both Edberg and Sees say the next few classes to enter Centerville High School are larger than previous groups. They hope to return the Tornadoes to varsity play next season.