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Long Road Trips A Routine For Some South Dakota HS Football Teams


With just two weeks before high school playoffs, teams are running out of chances to work themselves into a good position for the post-season.  Those playoff games can mean a lot of travel for schools—but there’s one school in northwest South Dakota that goes long distances to get almost anywhere.

Harding County’s school district occupies South Dakota’s northwest corner.  There’s about a half a person per square mile in the county, which equals Delaware in land area.  It’s isolated location means a lot of time on the road to get anywhere—that’s the case for the Harding County football team tonight.  The Ranchers will leave Buffalo and have a 420-mile round trip to play Herreid-Selby Area.  Ranchers head coach Jay Wammen says he has several ways to keep his players occupied.

Wammen says, “The kids have a scouting report, and they spend a little bit of  time on the scouting report—but our kids are pretty, already prepared for it.  So once we get on the bus, it’s kind of the kids’ time to be kids.  We don’t have a strict cell phone policy when our kids are on the bus—so if they need to play games or keep themselves entertained in that way, they’re free to do so.  And a lot of our kids like to play cards, like pinochle or games, so we let that happen too.  Anything to keep them engaged or have the time fly a little faster is great for us.”

The closest movie theater to Buffalo requires a 90-mile, one-way trip.  If the Ranchers don’t earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, their bus time to get to games can be much longer.  Wammen points to a state semi-final game several years ago, played at Hitchcock-Tulare on a Monday night.

Wammen reflects,  “And if we would have won that game, we would have had to come back to Vermillion on Thursday.  So we were kind of deciding, if we win this game, is it even worth the time to travel the six hours home and then eight hours back on a Wednesday.  We didn’t actually win the game, so it wasn’t a concern to us, but yeah—it really comes into play with us in the playoffs.”

The Ranchers have seven wins in seven games this year.  Herreid-Selby Area has lost just once.  Next week, Harding County ends its season at home against Lemmon-McIntosh.