REEDLEY - On a night where the Vikings’ defense allowed a season-high of 27 points, the unit made a stop when it mattered most.
When the Vikings were trying to hold onto a late 35-27 fourth quarter lead, Noah Jimenez sealed the 87th Annual Battle of the Fire Extinguisher after returning an interception 60 yards to the end zone. It was a moment that energized the Kingsburg crowd at Reedley High’s Sal Gonzalez Field on Friday.
“We talk about it every week ‘Who’s going to make a play this week?’” Vikings coach David Wilson said about Jimenez’s interception. “It was his time. It was his turn to do it and I can’t say enough about him and I can’t say enough about these guys.”
After its 43-27 victory over the Selma Bears (8-2, 4-1 CSL), Kingsburg completes a perfect 10-0 regular season and outright claims the 2019 Central Sequoia League championship. The Vikings are 10-0 for the first time since 2009 and it’s the program’s second-straight victory in the rivalry series. Kingsburg wins back-to-back league titles for the first time since 2007-08, which were both shared. The last time the Vikings outright won a CSL title was in 2013. Last year’s title was shared with Central Valley Chrsitian and Dinuba.
“It’s an emotional win for us and it feels good,” Wilson said about his team’s 10-0 record.
With Selma needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game, Jimenez picked off Bears quarterback Joey Ramirez with 2:10 left to play. It was Ramirez’s second interception of the night. After Jimenez’s score, Kingsburg successfully converted a two-point conversion on a run from quarterback Travis Hall.
“I was so happy, the team got so excited,” Hall said about Jimenez’s pick-six. “All that hard work, it really showed tonight, it’s just a great feeling.”
Kingsburg outscored Selma 15-0 in the fourth quarter and the Vikings put 40 on the board against the Bears for the second consecutive year. Last season, Kingsburg defeated Selma 49-14.
The Bears didn’t lead once throughout the game and the Vikings’ 35 offensive points tied for the most scored against Selma’s defense this season.
“You have to give Selma credit, they’re good,” Wilson said. “They’re physical, man.”
Hall continuously led Kingsburg to the endzone, being responsible for four of the team’s five touchdowns. The senior completed 10-of-17 attempts for 201 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Hall rushed for a team-high 61 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He spread the ball around all night, completing passes to seven different receivers. Blake Spomer had the most receptions with four catches for 59 yards. Since filling in as the starter, Hall has scored multiple touchdowns in three of his four starts. He has either thrown or run for a touchdown in every start.
Kingsburg built a 14-0 first quarter lead that later extended to a 21-7 advantage in the second quarter, but Ramirez connected with Aaron Blancas for a 17-yard touchdown before halftime and Adam Rodriguez rushed for a 1-yard score to tie the game in the third quarter.
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The Vikings offense responded with Hall throwing to Kaden Tate for a 32-yard touchdown to regain the lead at 28-21. The Bears answered back on the ensuing drive with a 48-yard touchdown reception from Blancas, but the Vikings blocked the extra point to keep the score 28-27 at the end of the third quarter.
Alfred Carpenter stretched out Kingsburg’s lead on a 10-yard touchdown run with 5:05 to play. Carpenter finished the night with 46 yards on seven rushing attempts. Spomer, the team’s leading rusher, only gained 19 yards on four carries.
Selma outgained Kingsburg 394-360 and also made more first downs (26-15) than the Vikings, but the Bears lost the turnover battle 3-1 with Ramirez’s two interceptions and a fumble.
Collectively, there were 17 penalties for 136 yards and only one sack was recorded. Kingsburg was penalized eight times for 81 yards while Selma had nine penalties for 55 yards.
“We did all we can, we really beat ourselves, all those flags and offsides” Blancas said. “We kept fighting, we didn’t let those two touchdowns in the beginning bring our heads down. We just kept fighting.”
Besides the two picks, Ramirez completed 9-of-15 attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Xsavier Jimenez picked off Ramirez in the Bears’ first drive of the game. Blancas finished with four receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Rodriguez rushed for a game-high 112 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Aaron Olivares rushed for 85 yards on 10 carries.
Selma’s Todd Weaver recorded the only sack of the game for a loss of seven yards. Rodriguez led the team with six tackles while Blancas and Moreno each had four.
Cal Muxlow had a team-high 11 tackles for Kingsburg and also had a 33-yard reception from Noah Jimenez on a triple-reverse receiver pass play in the first quarter. Noah Jimenez and Chase Dias each had five tackles.
The Vikings will compete in the CIF Central Section Division III playoffs as the top seed and will have a first round bye. They will host either No. 8 Central Valley Christian or No. 9 South Bakersfield in the quarterfinals on Nov. 15.
As for the Bears, they will enter the Division IV playoffs as the No. 2 seed and will receive a first round bye. They will play either No. 7 East Bakersfield or No. 10 Wasco in the quarterfinals on Nov. 15. The venue for the game has not yet been determined.