With Chowchilla High School trailing by two touchdowns midway through the second quarter, the Redskins’ Justin Cantrell returned a kickoff 53 yards to the Selma 22-yard line.
It was a chance to get back into the game.
The Redskins, however, couldn’t capitalize as the Bears made tackles behind the line of scrimmage on second and third down. Chowchilla tried a 35-yard field goal, but Aisa Chavez’s attempt never had a chance.
Chowchilla came away with zero points, and the game quickly got away from the Redskins.
Top-seeded Selma marched down the field to go up 18 points at halftime and cruised to a 39-7 win over third-seeded Chowchilla on Friday in the Central Section Division IV championship game in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Selma High.
It was the Bears’ first Valley championship since 1980 and fourth in school history.
“We get the big kickoff return and then stall out and miss a field goal,” said Chowchilla coach Alex Pittz. “We have to cash in on those opportunities, but you have to turn around and give credit to their defense as well. They’re the number one defense in the section for a reason.”
The Redskins (10-2) moved the ball at times, especially in the first half, but couldn’t finish drives.
Meanwhile, the Chowchilla secondary had no answer for Selma’s 6-foot-5 wide receiver, Tiveon Stroud.
The junior hauled in four catches for 93 yards and three touchdowns.
“It just worked out that way,” Stroud said. “We had to go with the flow and see what they were doing so we could find some weaknesses and exploit them. I never dreamed of having a game like that. I knew we were coming in hungry, and we got it done.”
The Redskins’ defense did a good job winning the early downs against Selma (13-0), somewhat containing running back Jordan Dominguez (89 yards on 15 carries). But Chowchilla struggled to get the Bears’ offense off the field on third and fourth downs.
The first big conversion came on a fake punt when Junior Ramirez, who doubles as the quarterback and punter, rolled out on fourth down as if he was going to punt rugby-style but then fired a pass to Klay Carrasco for a 25-yard gain and a first down.
The Bears capped the opening drive with another big fourth-down conversion when Ramirez found Sergio Pena open for a 16-yard touchdown pass to give Selma (13-0) a 6-0 lead with 1:18 left in the first quarter.
Then Stroud torched the Redskins’ secondary for two 25-yard touchdowns in the second quarter to open up an 18-0 lead at halftime. Ramirez completed 8 of 14 passes for 187 yards and four touchdowns overall.
“We had matchup issues,” Pittz said. “That was pretty obvious. Again, you have to give credit to them. They are a great team.”
Then on third and 18, Stroud took a screen pass 43 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a 25-0 lead with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
It didn’t help the Redskins that one of their top defensive backs, Bernardo Bustillos, was on the sideline with a knee brace after an injury last week against Golden West.
“I feel our guys gave it all they had,” said Chowchilla linebacker Wyatt Sparkman. “With Bernardo hurt, it wasn’t surprising they attacked that really hard. (Stroud) is a huge receiver.”
The Redskins’ offense isn’t built to overcome big deficits. The Bears took advantage of an errant throw by Chowchilla quarterback Cody Woolsey as middle linebacker Dominguez returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 32-0 late in the third quarter.
Dominguez added a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Bears a 39-0 lead at the start of a running clock.
Chowchilla’s touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Woolsey to Asa Shields late in the fourth quarter. Shields also led the Redskins with 75 rushing yards on eight carries.
Selma will play Bakersfield Christian in a regional bowl game.
The Redskins’ bid for a second straight Valley championship and bowl game appearance fell short.
As Pittz addressed the team after the loss, he reminded the players of all their success the past two years, in which the Redskins compiled a 22-5 record.
“ “We are a blessed program,” Pittz said. “That’s the best way I can put it. We have young men that have worked their butts off all the time. We made some changes in our program a couple years ago, and we’ve seen those changes pay off. I’m proud of the men they’ve become.”