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Joe Kemp steps down as Wabasso’s football coach

Submitted photo Joe Kemp will be stepping down after 15 years as Wabasso’s head football coach. Kemp had a career record of 123-59 and won five section championships.

WABASSO — One of the more successful football coaches in southwest Minnesota has decided to step down after leading his team to the section championship this past season.

Kemp coached the Rabbits for 15 years and had a career mark of 123-59. He won five section championships, including this year when the Rabbits (7-1) defeated Murray County Central 28-15 last Friday. The Rabbits appeared in seven section finals in his 15-year run. He also coached at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton for one year prior to coaching the Rabbits.

The coach joked that he had been there a long time and it was starting to show.

“It got to a point where I coached everybody in town and half their kids it seemed like,” Kemp said. “We’ve got good people in the school that are maybe more X’s and O’s than I ever was. I was a baseball guy, I don’t know why we won so much [in football].”

He said he thought about the decision for quite some time.

“I knew a long time ago that it’s not something I needed to do forever,” Kemp said. “I know that moving forward, our coaches that are going to continue to coach have that same work ethic and they’ll get this team to where it needs to be. I’ve got two young kids at home and I’ve always been a coach, I’ve been coaching something since I was 18 years old, so maybe I can step back and be a parent for a little while.”

Kemp, who is also the school’s Activities Director, will continue to work in that role and he also is an assistant golf coach in the spring.

“Football is really time consuming,” he said. “It really grew every year I coached with the film and the things you had access to. You watch football games on TV differently. I even watched the MCC game at some point on Saturday night and you’re still looking at it and thinking ‘I still want to fine tune this.’ I’m telling myself I don’t have to do that anymore. Sunday nights are going to be different, I’m looking forward to doing a lot of things that I’ve never had the time to do.”

He said that the players took the news well when he told them earlier this year.

“They were really good about it, the seniors treated me really special when we walked away at the end of the night the other night,” Kemp said. “A lot of tears in their eyes, I’m still going to be around for those younger guys. You’ve got a special connection with the program that you’ve been around for a long time, I’m not going to say I’m totally going to walk away. I’ve got a young son who totally loves football too, so I don’t know if I’ll totally be away but a lot of the responsibilities will be away.”

He said the players and the community made the head football coaching job in Wabasso a special one.

“I’ll be the first person to admit that I was very blessed,” he said. “I had a lot of great kids and had a community that believed in an bought into everything that I was teaching. I think they would run through a wall, those kids, and then to get the support throughout the community. These kids, what they did on Friday night became the biggest show in town and our community support made these kids perform at a higher level. It was just a great community to do anything for the school.”

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