Kansas City , Mo. –
Last fall the football team in Smith Center, Kansas -- population: 1,931 -- embarked on a quest for its fifth undefeated season, its fifth state championship, and a new state record for consecutive victories.
But to do so, the Redmen faced a potentially destabilizing transition: the greatest senior class in school history had graduated, and their longtime coach, Roger Barta, was contemplating retirement.
Kansas City native and New York Times sports writer Joe Drape moved his family to Smith Center Kansas to follow the Redmen.
In his new book Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen, Drape captures the essence of a football team whose desire for perfection sustains its hometown in the heartland while embracing Barta's philosophy to "respect each other, then learn to love each other and together we are champions."
Drape joins Steve Kraske to talk about high school football, and why the Redmen represent much more than just a successful athletic team and a small town, and explain how Smith Center holds on to a way of life that is rich in value, even in tough economic times.
For more on NPR's "Friday Night Lives" series on high school football across America, click here.
Learn more about the Smith Center Redmen and Joe's book on his website.
Joe Drape is a reporter for The New York Times and the author of The Race for the Triple Crown and Black Maestro. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, he previously worked for The Dallas Morning News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When he doesn't live in Kansas, the Kansas City-native and Rockhurst High School graduate lives in New York City with his wife and son.