Tuesday, June 25, 2019 Medina 68°

High School Football

Washing machine: Tackle Jake Kemp paves the way for Cloverleaf runners in opener

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Albert Grindle

The Gazette

Coaches use the lingo when describing their offensive linemen in an affectionate way. Fans love when a lineman “pancakes” a defender into the turf, but nothing brings a smile to a coach’s face like a “wash.”

A “wash” occurs when a down block — usually by a beefy, strong tackle — results in a defender being knocked sideways 3-5 yards with brute force. A running hole is created initially when the line of scrimmage is “washed” clean of defensive presence, thus the origin.

Cloverleaf right tackle Jake Kemp was nothing short of a washing machine Friday night in a thrilling come-from-behind victory at Canton South.

The Colts finished the 24-23 non-league game against the Wildcats with 295 yards rushing, including 179 from hard-nosed quarterback Brody Stallings, but one play call stood apart due to Kemp’s dominance.

The counter trey.

The statistics when the Colts dialed up “trey right” to Kemp’s side were as followed: Stallings 10 attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown, running back Eli Haynes three for 80 and one and running back John Manzuk two for 11.

That’s 15 carries for 222 yards, a 14.8 average and two touchdowns. The other 46 plays gained 131 yards (2.8 average).

The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Kemp was the igniter each time. The senior sealed inside the 6-4, 245-pound defensive end on a 44-yard Haynes scamper and a 47-yard burst by Stallings, cut off the middle linebacker on Haynes’ 32-yard TD and, on a 13-yard Stallings run that set up the game-winning touchdown, teamed with right guard Zach Greer to wash the defensive tackle.

“Sometimes we find a play that just clicks,” Kemp said. “Canton South was even out there calling the play out. They knew what was happening. We didn’t care. We just blew them off the ball.”

As Kemp pointed out unsolicited, the other moving parts did their job, too. Pulling All-Ohio left guard Nate Clingan kicked out a defender to create the right side of the hole, pulling left tackle Logan Henderson rumbled into the hole to seal it downfield and, depending on the formation, tight end Cameron McNeal sometimes helped Kemp down block before peeling off to get the middle linebacker.

When it was suggested most linemen prefer defense, Kemp bluntly said that is “because they don’t play O-line right.” The articulate second-team All-Portage Trail Conference Metro Division selection then beamed at the camaraderie, intelligence and teamwork needed to execute one of the most thankless jobs in sports.

“It’s so fun to watch, I think, the O-line working together as one unit,” he said. “I’d say it’s the only unit that has to work together cohesively on a team. O-line, if one person misses their block, (the play fails). Everyone does their part and it opens up a huge hole.”

Fourth-year coach Justin Vorhies smiles when Kemp’s name enters the conversation. With Kemp featuring a 16-going-on-30 personality from the time he forced his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore, Vorhies calls his captain “Papa Kemp” due to outstanding leadership and a curly, black beard.

To Vorhies, Kemp also is like a coach on the field. South had some success blitzing the edge against four-receiver formations, and Kemp immediately informed the coaching staff where the pressure was coming from. The Colts adjusted, and on the final drive backup running back Ethan Sterling teamed with Greer and Kemp to pick up a backside blitz when Stallings fired a dart to Kodey Trent for a 20-yard completion on fourth-and-19.

“His leadership out on the field and seeing things with his knowledge of the game is huge,” Vorhies said.

The Colts learned a lot about themselves during the heart-pounding victory, their first in a season opener since 2012. They learned that they don’t quit and winning is contagious after emerging on top in the final two games of 2017.

They also learned they have a go-to play called “Trey right.” Keystone will no doubt see a heavy dose of it tonight.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just keep on washing, baby.

“If you learn how to get your power under you — your butt under you — you really start throwing kids around. It’s a lot of fun,” Kemp said. “In practice, you get really tired during team sessions or whatever, but in a game when that happens, you don’t feel it all.

“When you’re absolutely killing someone, you’re just having a blast.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

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