Nearly 50 of the nation's best Native American high school football seniors came to town Tuesday.
They're here for the second annual Native American All-Star football game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Haskell Stadium.
"I think there are a lot better quality athletes this year," said Haskell Indian Nations University football coach Eric Brock. "There aren't as many as last year, but I think they did a better job of weeding out some kids who maybe weren't all-stars."
Last year's rosters contained 30 players. This time each squad has 25 players, and most arrived Tuesday morning. Light practices were conducted in the afternoon and evening.
"There are still some kids who haven't arrived yet," Brock said, "but they should be here soon."
In last year's inaugural game, the West clipped the East, 27-10. The West coach, Carl Madison of Pine Forest, N.C., is back this year, but East coach Herman Boone, who gained fame a few years ago as the protagonist in the movie "Remember the Titans" has been replaced by Dominic Bramante of Riverside Indian School. Boone is expected to speak at Friday night's pregame barbecue.
Brock is not one of the coaches; he is a liaison between the organizers and HINU.
Jeff Bigger of OKScouting in Tulsa, Okla., was the driving force in instigating last year's game, but Bigger pulled out this year because of a dispute with the Haskell administration over dorm expenses.
John Harjo, a former Haskell football player who operates the NDNsports.com Web site, has taken over as the all-star game's director.
Both Bigger and Harjo have said this was the last year the game would be played at Haskell. The probable plan is to move next year's game to Oklahoma, home of the bulk of players chosen for Saturday's contest.
Three practices are scheduled today -- at 9 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. -- with morning and evening sessions slated for Thursday. Friday, the teams will practice in the morning and afternoon, then attend the Friday night barbecue.