UPDATED: Bartz retiring after 28 years at Edwardsburg

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023

EDWARDSBURG — After 28 seasons, 10 consecutive Wolverine Conference championships, the 2018 Division 4 state championship and 216 career victories, Edwardsburg Varsity Football Coach Kevin Bartz has announced he will retire at the end of the 2022-23 school year, according to Eddies’ Athletic Director Brad Ostrander.

“It has been a pleasure working with Kevin Bartz, he has incredible football knowledge, a passion for the game and his program, but more importantly, he has been an outstanding role model and leader of young men for 32 years,” said Edwardsburg High School Principal, Ryan Markel. “Kevin works relentlessly around the clock throughout the year, always looking for ways to improve his program each season. His dedication, energy, and success with the football program have put Edwardsburg High School on the map. I thank him for his contributions to Edwardsburg High School and I think we have a great future because of the foundations he has established for the football program.”

Bartz, who replaced Art Zache as the Edwardsburg head coach in 1995, went 216-78 in his 28 seasons at the helm of the program. The Eddies had not had a winning season in 14 years. The 1995 Edwardsburg squad would post a 6-3 record his inaugural season.

He began his coaching career with the Eddies by coaching two seasons of middle school football and two years as the JV football coach.

Besides winning the 10 consecutive Wolverine Conference championships, Bartz and the Eddies qualified for the postseason 17 times in 28 years, including 13 seasons. Edwardsburg won nine district championships, eight regional titles and played in eight state semifinals, including each of the last three years.

“It was never one of those things where I wanted it to be a surprise to anybody,” Bartz said about contemplating retirement at the end of the 2022 season. “As long as my coaching staff and the players knew that when we got done with this season, with it being my son Zach’s last year and him graduating, my last kid going out of high school, that at the end of the season, I was going to evaluate and if I wanted to stick with it or look for something else.”

The veteran coach has plenty of memories from his 28 years at Edwardsburg, but a few more stand out than others.

“I think one of the earliest and most exciting memories we have is I go back to our very first playoff win against Napoleon,” he said. “They were one of those teams we went up against that, I think, were 9-0 and we just barely got in, and we were expected to get waxed pretty good. We got a huge win. Another one was our win at Lansing Sexton. We were just starting to figure out who we were and it was one of those wins that kind of put us over the top and propelled us in to be a state contender for the past several years.

“Our overtime win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central that got us into the state finals, and then obviously, winning the state finals. It is one of those things that are not easy to come by even though we have been close to getting back there, to be able to say we are not only able to say we got there, but we won one. That was kind of the pinnacle of my career. If I had gotten out now without that having happened, I would have looked back and said I wish I would have.”

Bartz knows that to enjoy the type of success his program has had, it takes a lot of people working toward the same goal. It takes great assistant coaches and great players.

“Without a doubt, the assistants I have had have been outstanding, he said. “A.J. Gaideski has been with me for a long time. He is a phenomenal offensive coordinator and a great friend. Randy Brooks is our defensive coordinator, it was great to have him back after he went to Dowagiac. We replaced him during that time with Gandolf Church. Jon Pryor and Brian Schaible, who would be varsity coaches in any other program run, have run the JV and freshman program for years and years. It was without a doubt it has been the people who we have had.

“And then we brought in Eric Forrest as our conditioning coach. He took us to that next level, not only with the strength training he did, but the mental training he did with these kids in terms of how to battle through adversity and things like that.”

Bartz has not committed to whether or not he would also be retiring as a teach at Edwardsburg at the end of the school year, but said it would be tough to remain a teacher and not be coaching. He will make that decision at a later date.

“I am not ready to commit [to saying he would retire from teaching at the end of the year], but I would have a hard time staying at a school if I wasn’t coaching,” he said. “Those things kind of go together. I would have a hard time sitting in a classroom with five or six football players knowing that after school, I should be going out with them instead of doing something else. My thought right now is I would look for something else to do.”