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Legendary Smith Center coach Barta calls it quits

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

Roger Barta decided he'd finally had enough.

After 34 years, 323 victories and eight state championships, the legendary Smith Center High School coach told his team Wednesday night he was retiring.

"We had our football meeting, our last one with the kids, tonight and I told them this was probably my last go-round with them," Barta said by phone. "This is pretty much it, unless something drastic happens or I change my mind.

"I'm getting up in age quite a ways and I don't want to cheat our kids. I don't get around as well as I used to and it's probably time."

Barta, 67, retired from teaching several years ago and with his wife retiring Nov. 1, it was time to move on.

"We have some things we'd like to do," he said.

"We don't know what we're doing, but we'll try to figure it out," he added with a chuckle.

One priority will be to watch his grandson play for Holton High School, where Barta's son, Brooks, has built his own successful coaching career.

"We've had a good run here," said Barta, whose teams played in 11 state championship games, finishing second three times. "Most of our kids had a chance to have a good experience in a state championship game.

"I think it's time."

Barta won his first state title, in Class 3A, in 1982. The Redmen added 3A crowns in 1986 and 1999, then after switching to Class 2-1A won five straight from 2004-08.

Barta and his team also were the subjects of a book entitled "Our Boys: A Perfect Season On the Plains With The Smith Center Redmen," in which author Joe Drape spent the 2008 season in Smith Center chronicling the team's most recent state championship run.

The Redmen finished 6-4 this past season, losing to Sterling in the first round of the 2-1A playoffs. Barta finished his career with a 323-68 record.

For more on coach Barta, see Sunday's HDN.