VISALIA – The Selma High football team could not stop Central Valley Christian when it had to in the fourth quarter en route to a 27-13 loss Friday at the hands of the Cavaliers.
Leading 20-13 with 8:38 left in the game, CVC took over on its own 20-yard line and marched 80 yards in 15 plays to score on Jaalen Rening’s two-yard run. With less than two minutes left and down by two scores, that all but clinched it for CVC (6-0 overall, 1-0 Central Sequoia League).
The Cavaliers snapped the 16-game regular-season winning streak of the Bears (5-1, 0-1), who won CSL and Central Section Division IV titles last season.
“We had plenty of chances to make those stops and we just didn’t get it done tonight,” Selma coach Matt Logue said. “We had multiple (potential) interceptions with guys in the right spot and had balls right in our hands and they wound up scoring on those drives. When you get a chance at a turnover, you have to capitalize on it.”
The passing of senior JJ Lino and running of Rening, a talented sophomore, was too much for Selma on the game-clinching drive. Lino, who was named homecoming king at halftime, completed four passes on the march, though Selma just missed an interception inside the 30 with five minutes left. Finally, Rening scored from the 2 to put the Cavaliers ahead by 14 points.
Rening’s interception near midfield with 1:05 left ended Selma hopes.
“They’re a really good team,” Selma receiver Ivan Valdez said. “We’ve been preparing for them for two weeks and they just came out and made big plays. We made plays too, but we need to take care of the little things.”
The Cavaliers out-gained Selma 369 to 212 and had 21 first downs to 15 for the Bears. Both teams had six penalties for 55 yards.
Lino plagued Selma all game, completing 15-of-29 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Rening rushed 23 times for 110 yards and one score.
“It was awesome to see us finish a game, running the ball,” said CVC coach Mason Hughes, a Kingsburg resident. “Jaalen (Rening) is special. JJ (Lino) played a great game, but that No. 9 (Rening) is a special kid. Our kids made plays.”
The game began on an unfortunate note for Selma as Lino completed a short pass to Brian Noel and he sped 82 yards for a touchdown in the first minute. The Cavaliers led 6-0.
Selma mounted its finest drive of the night mid-way through the first quarter. Senior quarterback Junior Ramirez ran three times and completed five passes to drive the Bears 74 yards for the tying score, an 18-yard TD pass to Valdez.
But CVC scored on two of its next three drives, tallying on an eight-yard run by Rening with 10:08 left in the third quarter for 13-6 and a 1-yard TD flip from Lino to Gavin Salierno with 38.4 seconds left in the half to make it 20-6.
Cornerback Tanner Rocha’s interception of a Ramirez pass with less than four minutes left had set up the Cavaliers at the Bear 25.
Selma hopes flickered in the second half as the Bears took the opening kickoff and scored 10 plays later on Ramirez’s 3-yard run to make it 20-13. An 11-yard catch by Ricky Mota on third-and-six at the CVC 42 helped extend the drive. But the Bear offense sputtered after that and the defense could not stop Lino and Rening when it had to in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids played hard until the end. We went down two scores at halftime and we responded,” Logue said. “We made a lot of good things happen. Everyone (some fans) wants to blame the officials and we can’t blame them. We had plenty of chances to get off the field with or without calls the officials made. We just need to clean up some things and eliminate some mistakes.”
Ramirez completed 10-of-18 passes for 90 yards and one touchdown and had two intercepted. He also rushed 15 times for 52 yards and one TD, had 6 ½ tackles on defense and punted twice for a 40.5 average.
Valdez caught three passes for 48 yards and one TD. On defense, Chris Romero and Parker Cazares had two tackles apiece.
Senior Tiveon Stroud, a two-way starter last season for Selma, did not suit up for the Bears and is no longer on the team, due to what Logue called a violation of a school rule.
Following the game, Selma participated in a CVC tradition, kneeling with the Cavaliers at midfield and honoring each other with the respective captains of the teams complimenting different aspects of their opponents’ play.
“If Selma’s not here, we don’t have a game,” Cavalier coach Hughes said, explaining the ritual. “If that guy’s not here pounding me, he’s not making me better. So it’s just a way to show some appreciation for the other team … some teams tell us no, but coach Logue started it with us last year and it was awesome.”
Selma is at Dinuba at 7:30 p.m. in another CSL game. Central Valley Christian hosts Kingsburg at 7:15 p.m. Friday.