When Boulder (Colo.) Fairview went into the locker room after a dominant first half versus visiting Grand Junction Friday, the game seemed destined to end in a rout by the home team. But football games last four quarters and Knights star Carlo Kemp said his team received a huge reminder of that en route to its 21-12 season-opening victory.
“They’re a really good team,” Kemp said afterward. “Grand Junction always plays hard and they’re always going to fight until the last whistle blows. We were up 21 going into halftime, and then we came out on defense and stopped them the first three drives in the third quarter. I think maybe the team morale was getting a little relaxed and a little complacent. That’s when they came back and jumped back on us. They’re good enough that when you make mistakes they’re going to execute on you. That’s what they did by scoring those two touchdowns.”
Those scores took care of any complacency that emerged on Fairview’s part and prompted Kemp & company to rally defensively to end the threat. The 6-3, 255-pounder even contributed offensively with some tough inside running. He finished night with four carries for 16 yards, and even had a 32 yard jaunt called back on a questionable holding call. Though happy to show his surprising niftiness and burst as a ball carrier, he isn’t at all confused about where his bread is buttered.
“I’m going to be honest with you… I have no idea what I’m doing (at running back),” Kemp said laughingly. “I get the toss and I’m just running downhill. I don’t read. I just go.”
He’s also utilizing that approach on defense… at least for the time being. Kemp spent the first three years of his high school career at defensive end, but he has made the switch to linebacker for his final season. By the end of Friday’s game he’d been credited unofficially with eight tackles and a handful of quarterback hurries. According to Kemp’s grandfather Sam Pagano, that’s not close to what the four-star prospect is going to be able to do once he has some experience. And Pagano knows a little something about football. During his 20-plus seasons at Fairview the Colorado high school coaching legend nurtured numerous future college and pro players, including former NFL All-Pro Tony Boselli. He also molded his sons Chuck (Indianapolis Colts head coach) and John (San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator). These days he’s happy to observe his family from the stands, albeit with a discerning coaching eye.
“We talked about it last year,” Pagano recalled. “I told (Kemp) that you’ve got to get up because I don’t if you’re going to be 290 to play with your hand on the ground. A lot of people think he can do both. He needs to (learn to) play in a two point stance which he started this summer. This is the second game he stood. He scrimmaged last week… and if you want to count the 7-on-7s… but this is his second game. He is getting used to it. It’s just all of his life he has had his hand on the ground. Everybody that has talked to him talked about being an outside linebacker and a rush end. That’s why he is standing up.”
For his part Kemp admits his head is still spinning a bit, but less and less with each snap.
“Just watching everything (is the touches adjustment),” said Kemp. “The flow is pretty hard. When you’re a defensive end all you do is watch the tackle. If he pulls you squeeze or whatever, but you’re always trying to go get the quarterback. But as an outside linebacker you have to watch the five linemen to see what they’re doing. It’s learning to train your eyes.”
“I think I did alright for my second time,” he added. “I definitely need to get better and improve. Every game is just one step at a time for me. I’d never played linebacker before, and let me tell you, it’s really fun. I love it! I’m just looking to Boulder, that’s our next opponent, just get a little bit better. (Take it) one step at a time. Don’t try to do too much because I’m sure I made (a lot of) mistakes tonight. Just cut them down half by half by half so that if we’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs I’m ready to go."
Stay tuned for word from Kemp on the latest in his recruitment in the coming days. In the meantime check out his highlights against Grand Junction below.