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Colome school board votes to have a 2024 varsity football season

Feb. 14—COLOME, S.D. — The Cowboys will field a varsity football team this fall.

The Colome School Board made the decision on Monday night, in a 4-2 vote, to go forward with a SDHSAA sanctioned varsity team, despite concerns with roster size and available participants.

After fielding just 16 players for the 2023 season, the school looked for other options in recent months. But in January, an attempt to co-op with Winner for football was blocked by the Winner school board.

Colome considered playing a junior-varsity schedule for the 2024 season — something the football coaching staff recommended. The board had until Monday's meeting to determine its plans so the SDHSAA could build a schedule for the team.

"The board took a really optimistic approach and we were anticipating an increase in enrollment that would allow us to field a competitive varsity team," board president Pam Haukaas said.

Haukaas was one of the two members who voted against fielding a varsity team, citing she voted no "because I took the recommendation of the coaches." However, she added that once the vote was made, she backed the decision for next season, and said the board stands united.

"I believe and the board believes that once a decision is made, our full support goes behind that decision," Haukaas said.

The Cowboys' 2023 nine-man football roster consisted of four seniors and three eighth graders. If each non-graduated player returns next season, and nobody else joins, the team will have four seniors, four juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen. Haukaas said she expects there to be around 13 players next season.

The low numbers, and the need to play freshmen at the varsity level, were of concern for Colome football staff, who wanted to use the year as building year at the junior varsity level, then return to varsity in 2025, according to Haukaas. The team had a 2-7 record in 2023.

However the majority of the board felt the current situation could be navigated through.

"They were optimistic we would get open enrollment, and that we could fill it up and then obviously if we get through this year, we would have the numbers from then on," Haukaas said.

The belief that enrollment numbers could grow is rooted in the fact the school is investing heavily into education. Colome is building a "state of the art" computer room, improving their art facilities, and is looking to expand their CTE and technical options at the high school level, and STEM classes at the elementary school level.

However, the district is also having its second reorganization vote on April 9, in which district voters will consider dissolving its current boundries near Wood and Witten for a smaller district footprint around the city of Colome.

A vote in June 2023 to maintain the district boundries narrowly passed

.

Another driving force behind the decision was community and school pride. Colome has a storied sports history, including a pair of Class 9B football state championships in 2016 and 2018.

"That is a big part of the decision and the optimism," Haukaas said. "For a small school that's not co-oping, if you look back at all our records for state championships, we've probably had more than the average small school. So we've always had good teams. There's been a lot of community pride with Colome. And I think that played a lot into the vote. The community talked to the board members and said, 'No, we can do it, we're Colome. We need varsity.'"