By ROCKY HIGGINBOTHAM



Kemper County Messenger



A quick glance at Kemper Academy’s 2017 football schedule will show it might be the most difficult it’s been since the Rams began playing 8-man football.

The size of Kemper’s district has doubled and KA will face no less than four teams with championship aspirations.



It starts Aug. 18, when the Rams travel to two-time defending state champion Tallulah (La.) Academy.



Tallulah has won 20 straight games and 32 of its last 34 contests, winning the 2015 and 2016 Mississippi Association of Independent Schools’ 8-man title after finishing as the state runner-up in 2014. The Trojans were classified a Class AA school during both championship seasons.



After that trip, Kemper will face the only two remaining members of its old district the next two weeks. KA hosts Hebron Christian Aug. 25, then goes to Calhoun Academy Sept. 1.



Hebron was a state semifinalist two years ago but was hit hard by graduation. The Eagles were winless at 0-9 last year, including a 28-0 loss to Kemper. Calhoun, meanwhile, was 4-5 last year including a 56-14 loss to KA.



On Sept. 8, Kemper will travel to Prentiss Christian, which has been a Class AA powerhouse the last few years. The Saints were 9-2 last year and 10-2 the previous year, both with deep playoff runs.



After an open date on Sept. 15, Kemper will host Delta Academy Sept. 22. Delta is one of KA’s new district foes, going 6-5 last year including a 76-28 loss to the Rams.



Kemper is scheduled to host Unity Christian on Sept. 29. Unity was 0-8 last year while competing as an independent.



That will set up a four-week stretch of tough district games in October – all of them against new district opponents.



KA goes to Humphreys Academy Oct. 6, then hosts North Sunflower Oct. 13. Both made the playoffs last year, with Humphreys going 6-6 and NSA 8-3.



The Rams visit Sharkey-Issaquena Academy Oct. 20, then wrap up the regular season against Marvell (Ark.) Academy Oct. 27.



Sharkey was 4-6 last year but won back-to-back titles in 2013-14; while Marvell was 11-1 a year ago and made the state semifinals.



Kemper finished 8-1 last season, losing 50-40 to eventual state runner-up Franklin (La.) Academy in the state quarterfinals.