Little known to many who travel through the 30A area, South Walton is, not so quietly, becoming a football town.
Fans now pack the stadium to see the South Walton High School Seahawks play on Friday nights. One of the reasons they come to watch is Kemper Hodges, the impressive quarterback who ranks Number 1 in Florida.
At the end of regular season play, Hodges has racked up 3,495 yards, including 2,595 passing and 900 rushing yards, and 53 touchdowns. The Seahawks have only lost one game this season and now head into the playoffs.
“Kemper is just a powerhouse,” said Courtney Roberts, a close family friend of the Hodges’ family. “He’s got these strong legs he can use to push through with the ball and this incredible aim. He’s so fun to watch.”
Hodges, 17 and now a senior, started playing football at five years old and never looked back. He followed in his older brother’s footsteps. Though his brother no longer plays, he remains his biggest fan, Kemper said.
John Hodges, Kemper’s father, said his son is naturally talented in sports and has been for as long as he can remember. Kemper also plays for the school’s lacrosse team. “If he’s got a ball in his hands, he’s going to beat you,” John said. (That includes ping pong, which John said he won’t even play with Kemper anymore. He can’t ever win.)
In addition to his athletic skills, his demeanor on and off the field gives Kemper an edge. “He gets kids playing their best, gets them to give their all,” John said. “He makes sure his teammates are prepared and holds them accountable. It elevates everybody’s game. He pours his heart and soul into it.”
Kemper was named Walton County’s player of the year this year, and he also earned the highest yards in the state for the 2020 season.
He said the success feels great, but he credits his team.
“The offensive line, my receivers, the whole team, they come in every day and put in the work, and I couldn’t do it without them,” he said.
While leading his team through a record-breaking season (South Walton is headed into the playoffs as the Number 1 seed in their division for the first time ever), Kemper has also continued his advanced math and science studies.
He hopes to go on and play football in college while studying engineering but has yet to be recruited by any schools.
“It would be a crime if Kemper doesn’t go on to play football somewhere,” Roberts said. “He’s just a dynamite.”
In the meantime, Kemper’s head will just be in the game he loves.
“Football goes hand-in-hand with everyday life,” he said. “I learn things in football that I can use in the real world, but when I go out on the field, I’m not thinking about the real world. It’s just football when I’m out there. I’m having a great time.”