Thomas Jefferson running back's relentless recovery leads to regular-season success
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Thomas Jefferson head coach Bill Cherpak preaches “team” over anything else to his players.
“That's the key to the whole program because you want your younger kids to know the expectations, and feel what the older kids are feeling,” Cherpak said.
“When it's their turn, they know how to handle it.”
No player may embody that message more than junior running back Austin Kemp, who is the team's leading rusher with 622 yards.
“I just try to add on (to the offense) because it's all 11 guys, it's not just one player,” Kemp said. “I try to play hard and go 100 percent every play.”
Kemp lettered as a freshman at middle linebacker and fullback, but missed all last season due to injuries.
Cherpak watched Kemp rehab relentlessly, and believed, even after missing a whole year, he was ready for a heavy varsity dosage on both sides of the ball.
“His experience (as a freshman) was invaluable. Nine times out of 10 when a kid misses his sophomore year, he's going to be behind going into his junior year,” Cherpak said. “He worked so hard in the offseason and was really ready to go to hit the ground running (this year).”
Last week against Albert Gallatin, Kemp ran for 137 yards on nine carries and added a score.
With a 5-foot-11, 210-pound frame, Kemp has the physical tools to make him a successful runner and linebacker, but it's his work in the film room, not the weight room, that gives him a keener sense of his surroundings on the field.
“We demand a lot mentally from our kids,” Cherpak said. “He understands how each play is blocked, like where the double teams are and the angles we are blocking. He understands and knows all this, so that helps him as a runner be able to determine what's coming.”
Kemp added: “You have to follow your line because in our offense if you follow your line you're going to make it to the promised land, as coach says.”
Kemp has seven touchdowns so far, and after five weeks, the Jaguars are undefeated with one of the best rushing attacks in the WPIAL, racking up a total of 1,263 yards or more 250 yards per game.
As good as Kemp and Thomas Jefferson have started, there's still a lot to be accomplished between now and the ultimate team goal of another championship.
Kemp knows there's no time to be satisfied.
“You have to work hard every week and you can't take it easy,” Kemp said. “I try to get better every week.”
Overall, Cherpak believes Kemp's selflessness and modesty inspires everyone in the locker room — whether he knows it or not.
“I don't think he realizes that he leads by example,” Cherpak said, “but he definitely does.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Central Valley, New Castle face WPIAL hearing over fight before football game
- Gorman: So much for sportsmanship
- HS highlight reel: Boys golf teams to play for finals berth
- Pine-Richland stays comfortable at the top
- Shady Side Academy looks to rebound after loss to Apollo-Ridge
- Belle Vernon Area takes advantage of Ringgold mistakes
- Frazier’s work playing to whistle pays dividends
- Safety, late TD not enough for Fox Chapel
- Keystone Oaks football controls its destiny entering final weeks
- Bentworth’s Tush Player of the Week
- Bentworth’s Hughes named Player of Week