When high school athletes go on Spring Break, coaches are typically concerned how sharp they’ll be when they return from having a week off. For Edmond Memorial soccer coach Jake Hemphill, it was a pleasant, but expected result.
“To be honest, it was absolutely incredible,” said Hemphill about his team’s first practice after returning from break. “I gave them last week off, but we trained Friday and Saturday for those that were still in town. Yesterday was the first time having the full squad back together, and they killed it.”
A big reason for the team’s sharpness is their experienced roster. For the first time since Hemphill took over the Bulldog program, he has a roster full of experienced and talented upperclassmen.
Watch the Ford Game of the Week: Edmond North vs Edmond Memorial Girls and Boys Soccer – Friday, March 24 starting at 6:00pm CT on YurView OK (Cox channel 3) or a free live stream.
“In 2021, we made the state finals and lost to Broken Arrow, but we were so young,” stated Hemphill. “My son, Roman, was a freshman. Kabl Kahkesh, Kai Marks and Lawson Ford, were sophomores. Now we’ve kind of come full circle to where I have a senior-heavy team. I’ve been waiting for this for three years.”
Kahkesh, one of the top strikers in the state, has eight goals and five assists through his team’s first seven games this season.
“Roman can score at will,” said Hemphill matter-of-factly. “Kabl can score at will. Lawson can score at will. Then I’ve got Kai Marks. He’s probably 5-5, but plays like he’s 6-3. People just can’t get past him. He has electric speed. Our defense is intact with him leading the charge.”
“I think it’s the best front six in the state,” added Hemphill.
Edmond Memorial has raced out to a 7-0 start, including a thrilling, 2-1 shootout win at defending state champion Norman North Tuesday night. Freshman goalkeeper Cooper Gunn made a dramatic save on North’s fourth penalty kick and sophomore Noah Brown provided the match-clinching kick a few moments later.
To prepare his team for the tough competition they’ll face in district and postseason play, Hemphill purposely scheduled some tough early-season matches, including a preseason scrimmage at Deer Creek that included 6A stalwarts Jenks and Tulsa Union. Midseason matches with Norman North and rival Edmond North will have a postseason feel that will leave the Bulldogs battle-tested come playoff time.
“I know it was the preseason, but I loved the adversity we had to face our first two games,” admitted Hemphill. “My first full year, I didn’t stack the schedule at the front of the season, so I was fighting through the middle of the year, trying to find lineups, who can get me what minutes and where I needed to be position-wise. The adversity we faced at the first of the year is really going to help us this week going into these big games and next week into districts.”
The Bulldogs host crosstown rival Edmond North Friday night in a big showdown that will be televised on Cox’s YurView Channel 3 and streamed online.
Hemphill can’t wait to see how his team performs in the televised rivalry game.
“This is the strongest team Memorial has had in at least 15 years,” said Hemphill. “We’re trending up and it’s very cool to see.”