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After an inconsistent 2018 season, the Bears expect to have a rebound year, but it’ll be come down to preparation and improvement on both sides of the ball.

“Last year, we had a rough season and we got a lot of guys back on both sides of the ball,” Selma head coach Matt Logue said. “I talk to them all the time about doing the little things right and buying in and just doing what we’re coaching them to do. I feel like if they really do that, we have the makings of being a really good football team.”

In 2018, Selma went 4-6 overall and 2-3 in Central Sequoia League play. It was the Bears’ first season under .500 and the first time that the program didn’t compete in the playoffs during Logue’s tenure.

Prior to 2018, Selma made three-straight playoff appearances from 2015 to 2017.

“We just can’t fall off,” Bears quarterback Joey Ramirez said. “We got to stay consistent and just try to win as much games as we can.”

Before the Bears’ game against Sunnyside - the third of the 2018 season - Ramirez was moved up from the junior varsity squad and started against the Wildcats. At the time of the promotion, Selma was 0-2 and the Bears were outscored 68-2 in those two games.

In his first varsity start, Ramirez threw for three touchdowns in a 21-13 win. As for the year, Ramirez scored 17 total touchdowns (12 passing, five rushing) with five interceptions.

Entering his junior season, Ramirez said the offense’s chemistry is important for a successful year.

“We’re all brothers. Everyone likes to play together,” Ramirez said. “The chemistry is important. We get a lot of time out on the practice field, just working hard on every play and just try to stay together as a team and do the best we can on Friday nights.”

Other notable offensive returners include junior receiver/running back Aaron Blancas and running back Adam Rodriguez.

Blancas scored in a variety of ways last season, totaling 13 touchdowns (nine rushing, three receiving) and accounting for 675 total yards (536 rush, 94 receiving, 45 passing), according to MaxPreps.

For the Bears to have a bounce-back season, Blancas, who also plays as a defensive back, said the offense has to “push” the ball up the field and the defense needs to get “a lot of turnovers.”

“Last year, we’re just going to take that as a lesson,” Blancas said. “This year, we got most of the guys back, a couple of seniors left, we just have to take it game by game.”

Rodriguez was the Bears power back last season, scoring seven touchdowns on 810 yards and averaging 7.4 yards per carry.

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After he completed his junior season, Rodriguez earned All-CSL recognition in two different positions. He was a First Team selection at linebacker and earned honorable mention at running back. Rodriguez is expected to play both sides again as a senior.

The Selma offense average 23.9 points per game during the regular season, including 30.4 points per CSL contest, which was the fourth best in the league.

As for the defense, the Bears struggled all 2018 keeping other teams out of the end zone, allowing 34.3 points per game, including a 38.4 average in CSL play.

“If we execute, it’s going to go in our favor,” Rodriguez said about the defense.

Like last year, the Bears will start their season playing its games away from Selma. Originally, the Bears were scheduled to play Kerman (Aug. 23), Independence (Aug. 30), Sunnyside (Sept. 6), and Washington Union (Sept. 13) at its newly renovated stadium, but the team might not host a game until Oct. 18. Selma is scheduled to face CSL opponent Exeter in its homecoming game that night. Two weeks later, the Bears are scheduled to host rival Kingsburg in the 87th meeting between the schools on Nov. 1.

Rodriguez said he would’ve loved to play at the new stadium to open the season, but it’s a factor that the team can’t control.

“We have a mindset that we could play anywhere,” Rodriguez said. “We have a thing called ‘Any squad, any place.’”

Selma will open its season at Kerman on Friday and play Independence at Reedley High School next week. The Bears will play Sunnyside at Reedley and will head to John Ventura Stadium to face Washington Union. Selma will be the home team for the neutral site games at Reedley High.

Kickoff between the Bears and the Kerman Lions is set for 7:30 p.m.

Player to watch

Aaron Blancas is expected to have a dynamic season after leading the team with 13 touchdowns last season. He was used all over the field, finishing second in all-purpose yards at 630.

His nine rushing touchdowns led the team and his 536 yards on the ground was second on the team. Blancas also averaged 8.2 yards per carry and is expected to also play snaps as a defensive back as well.

The hybrid offensive player said the unit’s chemistry will be vital to have a successful rushing attack.

“It’ll help us a lot,” Blancas said. “We all worked last year, same offense basically, we already have good chemistry.”

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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