By STEVE SWOGETINSKY



Kemper County Messenger



Kemper County football fans will long remember the 2016 season.

The Wildcats lost their opener to Columbus, but didn’t lose again as they finished the season with a 15-1 record. They would defeat Charleston 12-8 for the school’s first state championship in football.



But that’s over. Now it’s time to turn a new season. Practice for the 2017 season got under way Monday under new head coach Joshua Pulphus. He took over the Kemper County football program during the off season when coach Chris Jones resigned to become the new head football coach at Starkville High School.



This is the first head coaching job for Pulphus, who has nine years of coaching experience. He said he is ready to get started.



“We have had good participation in our off season weight program,” Pulphus said. “We lost a lot from last year’s team and we are going to be rebuilding this year. But I feel like if we can stay healthy during the early part of our schedule, we should be very competitive by the time we start our region schedule.”



The Wildcats compete in Region 5-3A, along with Forest, Morton, Southeast Lauderdale and Choctaw Central. Morton is new to the region while Philadelphia dropped down to 2A. The Panthers won Region 6-3A last season but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Southeast Lauderdale, 49-42. They finished with an 8-4 record.



Kemper County’s first action will be August 11 when they play Houston in the Mississippi State Jamboree, starting at 6 p.m.



The Wildcats won’t have far to travel August 18 when they open the season at Northeast Lauderdale. The Trojans went 2-9 last season. Kemper will be on the road the following week against the Quitman Panthers who placed second in their region and finished last year with a 6-7 record.



Kemper County hosts Louisville Sept. 1 in its home opener. Louisville went 7-6 last year and made it to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated by Lafayette.



The Wildcats travel to Philadelphia on Sept. 8. They battle West Lauderdale Sept. 15 in a game that is slated to be played at East Mississippi Community College. Their final non-region game will be at home against Wilkinson County Sept. 22. The Wildcats beat Wilkinson County 36-16 last year in the second round of the 3A playoffs.



Region action starts September 29 at Morton. After taking a week off, the Wildcats host Choctaw Central October 13, visit Southeast Lauderdale September 20, and close the regular season at home against Forest.