Jay Kemble led the Rams to an 8-6 regular season mark and the sixth seed for the Class A North playoffs.
Bangor High School field hockey coach Jay Kemble talks to his team during a game against Hampden Academy at Cameron Stadium on Sept. 3, 2022. Kemble will transition to leading the Bangor High School girls soccer team this fall. Credit: Seth Poplaski / BDN

Bangor High School girls basketball coach Jay Kemble has had several recent firsts.

Despite having never coached field hockey, he sought and earned the job at Bangor High School last season.

He led the Rams to an 8-6 regular season mark and the sixth seed for the Class A North playoffs, where they were eliminated by third seed and perennial power Messalonskee High of Oakland.

He’s also never coached a varsity soccer team, but that will change this fall. 

Kemble has stepped down as the field hockey coach to lead the Bangor girls soccer team. He is replacing Andrew Varisco, who went 35-9-6 in his four seasons, including a 10-2-4 campaign this past fall, but didn’t have his contract renewed after the season.

Bangor was the second seed for the Class A North playoffs and beat No. 7 Oxford Hills of South Paris 2-0 in the quarterfinals before losing to No. 3 Camden Hills of Rockport 3-1 in the semis.

The Rams had gone 16-0 in 2021 before losing to Brunswick 2-1 in overtime in the A North final.

Varisco had replaced Joe Johnson, who guided the Rams to five Class A North titles and two state championships (2011, 2015) during his 11 seasons at the helm.

“I’m very pleased Jay is taking over the soccer program,” Bangor Athletic Director Steve Vanidestine said.

“He has great balance between being competitive and meeting the needs of his athletes,” Vanidestine said. “I love the fact he is an educated coach who will make sure the program is aligned with how we want to run our high school athletic programs.”

Even though the 59-year-old Kemble hasn’t coached the sport at the varsity level, he did coach at the youth level for the Bangor Soccer Club.

“I love soccer. It’s a great game,” said Kemble, a history teacher at Bangor and former University of Maine pitcher. “I had a great experience coaching field hockey, but I’m much more comfortable coaching soccer.”

Kemble, a three-sport standout at Mt. Blue High School of Farmington, said he has a lot of the soccer players in class and some of them also play basketball for him, so he already has a connection with the athletes.

In his four seasons as the girls basketball coach, he has guided the Rams to a 39-15 regular season record.

“He is very popular with the kids,” Vanidestine said. “He did an outstanding job with the field hockey team. He gave that program new life.”

Vanidestine said there are “very high” expectations for the soccer team, but he feels Kemble will get the job done.

The athletic director said there were several high-quality applicants for the job.

Kemble said one of the nice aspects of the soccer job is the fact “we have a tremendous feeder program. There must be 20-plus girls in our program who are playing spring soccer right now for a number of clubs like Seacoast or River City.”

He has been preparing for the job by watching soccer, including Scott Atherley’s University of Maine team.

“I love the pace of their practices and their aggressiveness,” Kemble said. “I’m constantly looking for things like drills you can incorporate into what you do to help better your team.”

Kemble noted that there are similarities between basketball and soccer.

“There are a lot of concepts you use in basketball that also relate to soccer like gapping, finding angles, creating triangles to generate offense,” Kemble said. “Any time the ball moves, you have to move or you’ll be out of position.”

He will be looking for players to work hard every day and said the team will play an uptempo style.

“We will be putting constant pressure on the ball, and I will expect the defense to get involved in the offense,” he said. “We have tremendous athletes and tremendous kids at Bangor High, and I want to take advantage of that athleticism.”