The Central Sequoia League football race, with its members only absorbing four defeats in non-league, is wide open in 2017.
Heading into Friday night’s CSL openers, Central Valley Christian is 5-0, Selma 5-0 and Exeter, Immanuel, Kingsburg and Dinuba all 4-1. That’s a lot of winning.
“Everyone is good,” Selma coach Matt Logue said. “It’s going to be a battle every week.”
To be determined is whether anyone can unseat Selma as the CSL champ. The Bears went 5-0 in league play last season, captured a section title and lost 27-26 to Bakersfield Christian in the CIF-State Northern California Regional title game.
As usual, Logue has been growing his so-called “victory beard” – now approaching two months in length. Last year he rocked it for more than three months.
Kingsburg coach David Wilson also expects a close race.
"The CSL is always a gauntlet," he said. "You have some well-established rivalries between multiple teams, which make for some very competitive games. Each week gets tougher and tougher. As a coach you have to put records aside and take each game week to week ... The goal as a team is to be hitting on all cylinders in all three phases to get ready to compete with the CVCs, Dinubas Selmas and Immanuels of the world."
Here is a look at the teams, in alphabetical order:
CENTRAL VALLEY CHRISTIAN (5-0)
The Cavaliers have had only one team come within a touchdown of them, defeating Chowchilla 32-28 2 ½ weeks ago.
JJ Lino is completing almost 70 percent of his passes for CVC and has thrown for more than 1,000 yards.
Jaalen Rening paces the Cavalier running game, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Lino has four capable targets in Gavin Salierno (17.2 yards per catch), Simon Tevelde (14.8), Brian Neal (13.1) and Dustin Van grouw (15.8).
The Cavaliers have already defeated the school that knocked Selma out of the 2016 postseason – Bakersfield Christian – 21-12.
The Emperors have had one close game, defeating El Diamante 33-30 in overtime. Dinuba lost 69-47 to Tulare Western last week in a high-scoring non-league finale.
Quarterback Josh Morgan has completed just over 50 percent of his passes and has an impressive touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio.
The Emperor running game is paced by Josh Martinez who is averaging 9.5 yards per carry and Alek Marroquin (8.3).
Lucas Tuttle has been averaging 25.5 yards per reception, to go along with Colton Martinez (12.9) and Nathan Carrion (11.8).
Dinuba has outscored opponents 215-99 and has three shutouts.
First-year Monarch coach Keirsten Lamb was off to a 4-0 start until Exeter was defeated 48-3 by Golden West. Golden West may be the top team in the section, so that loss is no disgrace.
Lamb is an Exeter High grad who formerly coached Farmersville.
Josiah Martinez is a capable quarterback and has some reliable receivers in Christian Genetti and Jeremiah Doyal. Genetti is also a threat after he catches the pass or on running plays.
Running backs Isaiah Urban and Jonathan Thompson pace the Monarch rushing attack.
Exeter is iffy on defense where it gave up 183 yards on the ground in a 35-7 win against Woodlake. Defenders to keep an eye on are Jonathan Guerra and Jordan Mueller.
If you’re into comparative scores, Immanuel fell to Chowchilla 30-12 while Central Valley Christian defeated Chowchilla 32-28.
Immanuel, which has just 24 players, has wins against Fresno Christian (42-0), Mendota (22-14) and Modesto Christian (31-28).
Adam Simonian is a star for Immanuel, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and latching onto two interceptions on defense.
Bradley Collins-Dunn has averaged 20.8 yards per catch and had TD receptions of 93 and 24 yards against Mendota.
Immanuel’s running game is paced by Josh Reimer (5.9 yards per carry) and Tony Kawagoe (4.0).
Top defenders are Chris Gurrola and Simonian.
The Vikings got steamrollered 28-7 in their non-league opener at home. Since that loss to the Blazers, Kingsburg has scored 30 points or more in all of its games and has been led by running back Bo Jackson (6.8 yards per carry).
Caleb Buendia has completed 55 percent of his passes, with his favorite receivers being Alfred Carpenter (18.5 yards per catch), Tyler Stone (10.8) and Trevor Hodges (10.7).
Nathan Gamble (6.8 yards per carry) takes some of the load off Jackson in the Viking running game.
Jackson also leads the defense, averaging 13 tackles per game. Other impact Vikings are Seth Costi (8.3 tackles per game), Brandon Rocha (5.3), Anthony Rodriguez (5.0), Jaden Spomer (5.0), Jacob Anaya (5.0) and Josh Chavez (4.7). Hodges also has two interceptions.
The Bears have won 16 consecutive regular-season games in a row, dating back to a 26-24 loss to CVC on Oct. 30, 2015.
Two of Selma’s wins this season have been by three points or fewer – 22-21 over Kerman in the opener and 20-17 against Washington Union in its second game.
Selma depends on a defense that has had only one uneven effort, the narrow win against Kerman when the Bears completed an improbable two-point conversion pass after a botched PAT snap to win.
Junior Ramirez completes 50 percent of his passes, but has thrown five interceptions. He also is a dangerous runner and punts (left-footed, no less).
Selma uses a bevy of running backs, including Oscar Gonzalez (3.8 yards per carry), Jacob Martinez (5.2), Oscar Gonzalez (3.8) and Tiveon Stroud (3.4). Also, Ricky Mota floats between QB and receiver and averages 4.6 yards per carry, in addition to being a top defender.
Brian Ching (14.8 yards per catch) is Selma’s top receiver, but Mota (11.1) is also a threat.
Besides Mota, Oscar Diaz (4.5 tackles per game) and Adam Rodriguez (4.6), Parker Cazares and Dante Guicho are defenders to watch.