Veteran coach Bo Barton wasn't planning on starting a new year on a new job until Prairie View called about its opening for a head football/baseball coach.
Looking back, Bo Barton was surprised to be sitting in an unfamiliar office late Tuesday morning as Prairie View's newly-hired head football and baseball coach.
After spending a semester as athletic director and head football coach at Lee Junior High, the veteran coach wasn't pursuing another job.
"To be honest, Prairie View had never entered my mind, but you never know how things are going to work out in the coaching field," said Barton, who was formally hired Friday morning. "When the job came open, (Prairie View Principal) Mr. Perry Kelly called and asked for an interview. I really liked him and felt comfortable with the board. I knew quite a few people from when I was here before, and I felt comfortable with the town and the area.
"After meeting with Mr. Perry and the board, it all lined up. I'm looking forward to the challenges that present themselves."
Barton inherits a football program on the rise. Matt Middleton, who accepted the head coaching job at West Ouachita, guided the Spartans to back-to-back district championships for the first time in school history and consecutive state quarterfinal appearances.
Barton has spent his entire coaching career in northeast Louisiana. Along the way, he has coached four NFL players (Edgar Jones, Jonathon Wilhite, Richard Murphy and Kenny Bell) and numerous college players. His first head coaching venture was a two-year stint at Class 1A Newellton. He then spent three seasons as an offensive coordinator — one at Bastrop with Brad Bradshaw and two at Ouachita with John Causey.
Barton is probably best known for a highly-successful 10-year stay at Rayville where he built the Hornets into a perennial Class 3A state contender. Upon leaving Rayville, he was head coach at Caldwell for five years.
Moving to Tallulah Academy for the 2015-16 school year, he directed the Trojans to the MAIS eight-man state football championship as well as a district title in baseball.
"I've been really, really fortunate to work under some good people," Barton said. "Working for Ray Gambino and coach Bradshaw and being part of a Ouachita staff with three coaches that had won numerous state championships allowed me to become a better coach. I have been fortunate to work with people who know the game and know how to teach the game."
Barton says each stop in his coaching journey has helped shape his philosophy.
"You can take plusses and negatives from every program," Barton said. "I try to implement the positive and eliminate the negative from everywhere I have been."
From junior high to eight-man to Class 5A, Barton has coached at every phase. Regardless of the level, Barton says the game remains basically the same. As a coach, one of the ultimate objectives is to help each individual get the maximum out of his ability.
"Football is football, even in eight-man," Barton said. "It's all about being organized and motivating the kids. You teach and coach the fundamentals — tackling, throwing and catching. I've coached eight-man all the way to 5A. The speed of the game and the size of the game changes some, but the game itself doesn't change. You teach and coach the kids to play at a level where they don't think they can play."
While Barton hasn't had an opportunity to evaluate his new team — he's still in the process of learning the players' names — look for the Spartans to run some variation of the spread next season.
"I'll have to wait and see what we do, but I believe in the spread," Barton said. "You can do anything out of the spread. You can be a power team, a finesse team, a throwing team or a running team out of the spread. The game has evolved so much out of the spread. The four basic running plays — trap, counter, sweep, isos (isolations) — you can run them all out of the spread. It usually features the quarterback."
Prairie View has a solid cornerstone for its new offense as quarterback Hayes Crockett helped the Spartans to an 8-2 record as a freshman last season.
A ULM alumnus, Barton played high school football for the legendary "Moose" Munyon at Mangham High School.
Two of Bo and Shelly Barton's five children are currently college baseball pitchers. Jacob Barton is a right-hander at Mississippi State while Justin Barton is a left-hander at LSU Eunice. Daughters Josie Barton and Emily Eason and son Reed Eason all attend Good Hope in Monroe.