Diamondbacks head coach Jason Wheeler said the team has set high goals for themselves. Sharyland Pioneer put together a 6-4 record in only its second year.
“Our kids fought hard, you know,” Wheeler said. “I’m really proud of them. I’m happy where we’re at.”
And Wheeler had every right to be proud. Knowing they needed a win to make the playoffs, the Diamondbacks shrugged off the fact that they’re a very young team, led by a freshman quarterback, and played hard.
They drew first blood with a Leo Rios field goal from the 27-yard line in the first quarter, but had trouble getting the ball back when Roma kept the ball in the hands of their running backs and ground-out yardage.
A big offensive line made it hard for the Diamondback defense to get at district rushing leader Ramon Espinoza, and along with Damian Villarreal, Roma played classic “three yards and a cloud of dust” ball control football. Gladiator quarterback Andy Maroquin engineered two long drives for touchdowns and the first half ended with Roma ahead 14-3.
Wheeler challenged his defense in the second half, and though they allowed another Roma touchdown in the third quarter, they also produced a fumble and some sacks. Wheeler also decided to keep freshman quarterback Jacob Rosales in for the entire game.
“He’s got a lot of talent,” Wheeler said. “Sure, he makes mistakes, but we also wonder if he is our future.”
Rosales responded to that trust as he started passing the ball more in the second half and put together some drives, though penalties hurt the Diamondbacks at key times.
After a fumble recovery in their own territory, Pioneer’s Brandon Casas broke free for the team’s only long run of the night, taking the ball to the Roma 15. A few plays later, he crossed the goal line, making the score 21-10.
For awhile, the Diamondbacks put some life into the game by putting together nice drive, helped by an interference call against Roma. Rosales appeared to score a touchdown, but the play was called back for holding. A few plays later, Rosales threw into the end zone, where it was picked off by the Gladiator’s Juan Garcia. With only 1:48 left on the game clock, that effectively ended the scoring, the game and the Diamondback’s season.
With their bye next week, Wheeler looks forward to the future.
“We have a good runner with a strong arm – a real dual threat. I’m looking forward to having him around for a few more years,” Wheeler said of Rosales.
If Wheeler gets the kind of senior leader he saw this season, the Diamondbacks should have a very good future.