Greater Athens January 2022 - Page 15



Kemp looks to build on tough first season under Stephens

A tough first season for the Kemp Yellowjackets has coach Justin Stephens optimistic heading into the 2022 season .
The Yellowjackets went 0-9 overall and 0-5 in District 8-3A , Division I football , Stephens said he could see his team fight each week they were on the field .
“ While we did not have the season that we had hoped to have had , there were many goals that we set both before and during the season that we were able to achieve ,” Kemp coach Justin Stephens said . “ There are many things we accomplished that will allow us to continue to improve as a program . Through all the challenges and adversity we faced we discovered a group of athletes that are hungry for success . They are learning that hard work and working together as a team are needed for us to continue to get better and accomplish their goals .”
Anytime a team deals with a new coaching staff , learning new schemes in such a short time can be difficult . Stephens knew there would be growing pains , but was pleased with how they handle those challenges with veteran quarterback Deacon Thompson .
“ Change is hard and I realized that going into the season . Our athletes this season were learning brand new schemes in all three phases of the game ,” Stephens said . “ They responded well and are going through an offseason that will challenge them . We are excited for our underclassmen coming up . They are a great group of athletes that should allow us to evolve our schemes .”
He said with his first season class , they made an impact on him with how hard they fought and led the underclassmen on the football field and in the weight room .
“ Anytime you have a first it is certainly impressionable ,” Stephens said . “ This group of seniors will certainly stay in our memories . They fought through some big challenges and they continued to get back up and go back to work . I believe that is evident in their performance in our last game of the season where we continued to battle until the very last second . Their efforts left an impression on the guys coming up . Their efforts will definitely not be forgotten .”
He said the biggest lesson he learned about his Yellowjacket program is how the players handled the tough situations that they faced , but still fought and have built character as young men and women .
“ We obviously learned a great deal about each other over the course of this past season ,” Stephens said . “ The biggest take away I have from the season is that we have a group of kids that are resilient and tenacious . They kept working all season and have continued to work into the offseason . I am excited about what the future holds for these young men as they continue to grow and develop not only as student-athletes , but as young men .”
In a district with Malakoff , Groesbeck , Teague , Fairfield and Eustace , Stephens knew with the veteran coaches and talent in East Texas , it would be a challenge in his first year . He said when it comes to realignment , he is not making any predictions .
“ We felt that our district was composed of great schools with excellent coaches and talented athletes ,” Stephens said . “ As for our district realignment for the upcoming seasons , I leave that up to the UIL .”
January 2022 | Greater Athens Magazine 15