SANGER - The Selma Bears will get the rematch they’ve been waiting for on Black Friday.
Joey Ramirez connected with Aaron Blancas for three touchdowns, Aaron Olivares rushed for 124 yards, and Aaron Moreno ran for a score in a 27-7 playoff victory over the Kennedy Thunderbirds (10-3, SSL) in the CIF Central Section Division IV Semifinals at Tom Flores Stadium in Sanger on Friday. It was the first meeting between the two programs.
The 2-seeded Bears advance to the Division IV championship game against No. 1 Washington Union at John Ventura Stadium. Earlier this season, the Panthers handed Selma its first loss of the year, a 42-32 defeat at the same venue on Sept. 13.
“Washington Union…..We’ve been waiting for them,” Selma defensive end Dante Guicho said. “We’ve been waiting for them, man. After that loss, everybody wants it, everyone is going to work harder this week.”
Guicho had eight tackles and recorded a fourth quarter sack that caused a fumble. After the Bears recovered the fumble, the offense ran out the clock with its ground attack.
“Our defense did great,” Blancas said. “Our [offensive] line did great, giving our quarterback some time.”
In the semifinals, the Bears went ahead 13-0 in the first quarter behind a 5-yard score from Moreno and a 53-yard touchdown reception from Blancas. Selma extended its lead to 19-0 before halftime after Ramirez threw his second touchdown of the night on a 19-yard play to Blancas.
The Bears were held scoreless in the third quarter while the Thunderbirds had its only touchdown of the night on a 30-yard run from quarterback Jose Cota with 45 seconds left in the quarter.
The third touchdown connection between Ramirez and Blancas - a 50-yard play - officially put the game out of reach and extended Selma’s lead to 20 points (27-7) with 7:31 to play. Ramirez and Blancas nearly connected for four touchdowns, but the latter dropped a potential 8-yard score in the endzone on fourth down early in the fourth quarter.
Despite the drop, Blancas finished the night with five receptions for 173 yards and three touchdowns. All of Ramirez’s completions and yards (5-of-14 for 173 yards) were to Blancas. Selma averaged 34.6 yards per completion.
“That’s my guy,” Ramirez said about Blancas. “We’ve been playing since we were little. The connection is unreal and we just work hard at practice every day.”
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Offensively, the Bears gained 376 total yards with 203 of them coming on the ground. Olivares rushed for a game-high 124 yards on 24 carries and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in both playoff games. Zach Zarate ran for 48 yards on seven carries and Moreno carried the ball 10 times for 25 yards.
On defense, Selma limited Kennedy to 112 total yards. The Bears allowed 65 yards through the air and 47 yards on the ground. Selma had three takeaways on two fumbles and an interception that was made by Ramirez, who also plays safety. Ramirez picked off Cota during Kennedy’s first offensive drive in the second half.
Jon Ambrose led the Bears with 10 tackles and had half of a sack, followed by seven tackles from Robert Jauregui and four from Adam Rodriguez. Todd Weaver also had half of a sack.
“Our kids were really dialed in” Bears head coach Matt Logue said about the defense. “We got them out of what they really like to do, which is run the ball and they had to throw for most of the second half.”
It was Logue’s first game back coaching at Tom Flores Stadium after being an assistant coach under former Sanger High coach Chuck Shidan in 2007-14. The field at Tom Flores Stadium is named after Shidan. The game was played at the Apaches’ home venue due to the ongoing reconstruction of Staley Stadium at Selma High.
“I’m super thankful for them letting us come here to play, especially because we weren’t able to play in Reedley,” Logue said. “It was fun to come back and see some of the old guys I coached with and see some of the players that came out and supported us. It was definitely fun.”
The Central Section Division IV championship between the Bears (10-2, 4-1 CSL) and the Washington Union Panthers (11-1, 4-0 NSL) is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff at John Ventura Stadium this Friday.
The Panthers defeated No. 4 seed Porterville High 27-23 in the semifinals. It was the second time that Washington Union was held to under 30 points this season. The Panthers are making their first section championship appearance since 2015 and the program’s last won a title was in 2011.
Selma is making its first Central Section title appearance since 2016, which was also the last time the program won a championship.