Ironically for J.T. Kemp the mission in game one will be trying to help defeat the team – Parkersburg South – that he was winning with in his last high school football game.
In his final game as a junior last November, J.T. Kemp helped lead the Parkersburg South Patriots to a 19-14 overtime win against arch-rival Parkersburg High at Stadium Field.
Less than a year later, Kemp will line up for his senior season in a Ripley Viking uniform.
Ironically, the mission in game one will be trying to help defeat the team – Parkersburg South – that he was winning with in his last high school football game.
“I transferred after football season ended at South,” said Kemp, who will be used as a fullback on offense and linebacker on defense. “I came down here and Coach (Eddie) Smolder and his coaching staff were just the perfect fit for me. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new friends.”
During an injury-plagued season, Kemp finished his junior year at South with 654 yards on 131 carries. He scored 12 touchdowns, including two against the Big Reds in that season finale.
In what turned out to be his last game for the Patriots, Kemp rushed the football 26 times for 159 yards. Kemp earned Class AAA All-State Honorable Mention in 2016.
Before playing football for the Vikings, Kemp got a taste of Ripley athletics as the starting first baseman for the baseball team.
This past spring, Kemp hit .354 for the Vikings. He also earned Class AAA All-State Honorable Mention while driving home 22 runs and collecting 96 hits.
Big runs on offense and big hits on defense are the present goal for Kemp as a football player.
He said playing baseball was huge during his transition from a Patriot to a Viking.
“It helped a lot,” he said. “At first, I was a little gun-shy. I was worried about making mistakes. I was kind of hesitant and didn’t want to make mistakes. I had a great coaching staff for baseball, too.”
His head coach for baseball, Shane Casto, is an assistant for Viking football.
“I had a really good year (in baseball),” Kemp said. “And the baseball team had a really good year. It helped me a lot. I feel like it will transition well into football.
“I love the community down here. It’s not quite as big as Parkersburg. It’s really respectful. I love the fact I feel like I know everybody. It’s really good.”
He can’t wait to witness and be a part of game competition in his first and only season as a Viking football player.
“I’m really excited to see where our hard work takes us,” he said. “Hopefully, it will take us a long way. Our common goal is to make the playoffs.”
Last season, two tough losses to Point Pleasant (19-17) and Riverside (7-3) kept Ripley out of the playoffs.
Kemp can certainly relate. South finished 17th the past two seasons in the final Class AAA ratings to miss out on the field of 16.
Of course, one of the losses for the Patriots was a season-opening, 14-7, defeat at the hands of Ripley. In the contest, Kemp, who has plans on playing college football, carried nine times for 17 yards and had one tackle on defense.
Now, he’s about to embark on an opener wearing Ripley’s royal blue and white instead of South’s navy blue, red and white.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he said of meeting his old teammates and friends at Memorial Stadium on August 25. “It will be a good time. Everybody on that team I really get along with. It will be like playing in the back yard again. It will be fun.”
It will truly be fun for him if the results turn out to be the same as a season ago, and Ripley comes away victorious.
Unlike at the conclusion of last year’s encounter, this time around J.T. Kemp will be all smiles.