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'Our Boys' Gets Behind 68-Game Winning Streak

Our Boys by Joe Drape

In the tiny western Kansas town of Smith Center, high school football is not just a sport — it's a community-wide crusade.

And the result is a stunning string of victories.

The Redmen of Smith Center High won their season opener Friday night, beating the kids from Plainville 59-0.

It's Smith Center's 68th consecutive victory, giving the team the longest current winning streak of any U.S. high school.

Joe Drape, a sportswriter at The New York Times, first noticed the school a couple of years back, when the Redmen went through a full season undefeated — without giving up a single point.

So he moved his wife and 3-year-old son to Smith Center, population 1,644, and set about chronicling the 2008 season.

The result is a new book, Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen.

Drape tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz that he envisioned the project as a modern-day Friday Night Lights set on the Great Plains, but it became something more.

Drape profiled longtime coach Roger Barta, an unusual prairie Zen master. Drape was drawn to the coach's simple philosophy: "He never speaks about winning or losing. He's got a little bit of Yoda in him. He talks about respect, liking and loving each other."

One of Barta's star players, Colt Rogers, is a dynamo — at just 5-foot-3 and 135 pounds. "He's going to hope that he plays bigger than his size," Drape says. "His 'want to' is far bigger than anybody larger than him."

And for this flinty town on the Plains, "want to" is not in short supply. Nor are victories.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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