When Roger Barta looks back on his time as Smith Center’s football coach, he sees a life that simply came together.
From the choice he and his wife made to raise their children in a small community to the success on the football field, it all worked out.
“Really, it all just fell into place,” said Barta, who will be inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Barta is a humble, quiet man, who experienced phenomenal success on the football field.
He coached Smith Center from 1978-2012, compiling a 323-68 record and winning eight state championships. He won five straight Class 2-1A titles before Centralia beat Smith Center in overtime in the 2-1A title game in 2009. That loss also ended a Kansas record 79 straight wins, which spanned the 2004-09 seasons.
Barta also owns state records such as career coaching win percentage and all-time undefeated seasons (seven). And Joe Drape, a writer with the New York Times, spent a season with Barta in Smith Center for the book, “Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen.”
Barta didn’t experience many losses, but one that sticks out was during his son, Brooks’, senior season. Smith Center had won the 1986 title when Brooks was a junior, but lost to Plainville in the playoffs the following season.
“It was a disapointment,” said Roger Barta, a native of Plainville. “That was personal.”
Smith Center used a run-first offense and rarely, if ever, passed the ball. Brooks Barta has also found success with the double-dive, inside-belly offense, winning Class 4A titles with Holton in 2012, 2005 and 2003.
“It’s been a good life,” said Roger Barta, who graduated from Fort Hays State in 1967. “What stands out is the young men we coached. They are good citizens and productive people. It just fell into place.”
In reference to the winning streak, Barta said, “We had some good kids. Things fell into place for us.”
Barta knows that most people will think his focus was always on winning. But that wasn’t the case.
“We weren’t so much interested in football, but we wanted to develop skills for life,” he said. “We wanted to teach them how to act, to have character. You know, life skills and how to be better people. Our goal was education.”