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SELMA — For the Selma football team to make its fourth-straight playoff appearance, the Bears will have to get through a tough preseason schedule followed by a competitive Central Sequoia League slate.

Eight of Selma’s 10 scheduled opponents this season were playoff teams in 2017. Four of Selma's first five opponents were playoff teams and the Bears will play three of them in consecutive road games to start the season.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” Selma coach Matt Logue said. “That’s why we try to get out here and control the things that we can control and get to be the best we can be.”

Selma's first four games will be on the road against Kerman (Aug. 17), Independence (Aug. 24), Sunnyside (Aug. 31) and Washington Union (Sept. 7). Selma will play its first home game against Madera High School to finish up its preseason schedule on Sept. 14.

Selma thought it would be playing all its games on the road this season because Staley Stadium was going to be under renovation during the season. But now renovation plans have been pushed back until after the season.

“We weren’t too worried about it because we were going to play every game somewhere else,” Logue said on starting the season with four-straight road games.

Following a bye week, the Bears will begin CSL play against newcomer Hanford West at home on Sept. 28. The Huskies are coming from the West Yosemite League and went 4-8 overall and were winless at 0-6 in league play last season. Despite going under .500, Hanford West did have a 24-21 playoff win against Bishop Union last year.

The Bears will wrap up a three game home-stretch against Dinuba on Oct. 5. The Bears will have a road date with Exeter on Oct. 12 and will close out its home schedule against Central Valley Christian on Oct. 19. Selma will end its season with a rivalry matchup against Kingsburg on the road on Oct. 26.

Other than Selma, four of the other five CSL members qualified for the playoffs last season. Reigning league champion Dinuba (11-2, 5-0 in CSL last season) and CVC (10-3, 3-2) were the only CSL teams to have double-digit wins last season and both squads made an appearance in a Valley championship game.

“It’s going to be a tough season,” Logue said. “There’s not a game on our schedule where you could look at and go ‘Oh yea that should be a for sure win.’ We've got our work cut out for us.”

Last season, Selma went 8-3 overall and had a 3-2 record in league play, which was good for a tie for second place. The Bears qualified for the CIF Central Section Division IV playoffs. Selma lost in a 36-35 overtime heartbreaker to North High School last November.

The Bears’ notable returners include receiver/defensive back Ivan Valdez, running back/outside linebacker Brian Ching and quarterback/defensive back Ricky Mota. All three earned all-CSL honorable mentions last season.

Mota is expected to be the starting quarterback after serving as the backup to last year’s signal-caller and recent Selma High graduate Junior Ramirez.

The senior said he has big shoes to fill and Ramirez was a mentor to him last year.

“I learned from him last year,” Mota said. “He just taught me a lot and now it’s my turn. So I have high hopes this year.”

Logue said Mota has “done everything” in the offseason to prepare as the starting quarterback this season.

“Ricky is definitely the guy going in,” Logue said. “He’s done everything to earn that right and is doing everything out here we ask him to do.

One of last year’s returning starting players Pat Angelo is expected be one of the team’s running backs in Selma’s shotgun Wing T formation. Angelo said he expects the team to improve from last season.

“We were kind of young last year,” Angelo said. “We had a young line last year and everybody practically came back. Ricky is going to step in [at quarterback]… but we just have to keep grinding and keep putting the pieces together.”

Logue said the majority of the offensive and defensive linemen are returning and the team will feature a more “diverse” group of skilled position players than what it had last year. Sophomore Aaron Blancas is one of the many athletes Logue considers to be “dynamic” on the team. 

Blancas is expected to serve as the backup quarterback, but Logue said he’ll play at several other positions on the field this season.

Selma opening season game against Kerman is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Last year, the Bears defeated the Lions 22-21 at home and was one of Kerman’s two losses last season.

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

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