ABILENE — JJ Diaz has been used to getting the ball handed off to him before exploding through the offensive line for a big touchdown for a majority of the season.
On Friday night, the Roosevelt senior found a new way to make a big play against Gunter in a Class 3A Division II semifinal game Friday at Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium.
After Hudson Graham was hit attempting to pitch the ball to teammate Ethan Sloan, Diaz saw the ball on the ground, picked it up and broke a few shoelace tackles toward a 66-yard fumble recovery.
The game-changing play cut the Eagles deficit to eight points by halftime, but that momentum went away as the offense did not score the rest of the way en route to a 47-12 loss to the Tigers.
"It's been a great year, glad I could finish it with these seniors, these coaches and my family right there watching me from the sidelines," said Roosevelt senior quarterback Alex Treviño, who finished with 100 rushing yards and score. "We put in the work, and I hope the underclassmen can look at us and realize this is what you have to do in order to win.
"We left a legacy for the underclassmen, and I feel it's a seed, too."
Prior to that, the Eagles were playing from behind after a three-and-out to start their first offensive possession.
Gunter took advantage of the situation, engineering an eight-play drive that was capped off with a 1-yard run by Sloan before a Logan Hubbard extra point made it 7-0 at the 7:41 mark of the first quarter.
Things stayed the same until the second quarter, which saw both teams find success on offense.
Roosevelt did so by forging an 18-play drive, which milked the clock and wore down the Gunter defense.
Treviño faked a pitch right and bulldozed his way up the middle to convert a fourth-and-4 from the Tigers 8 for the first Eagles touchdown and cut the deficit to 7-6 after a missed two-point conversion with 9:09 left before the midway point.
A kickoff that went out of bounds, and drew a 5-yard penalty, allowed Gunter some time to regroup and Sloan did the rest as he caught the ball, ran to his right and followed his blockers to a 76-yard touchdown toward a 13-6 advantage almost 10 seconds later.
The Tigers looked to turn the tide after forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs after nine plays and scoring on their next offensive possession.
Sloan, who finished with four total touchdowns and 81 rushing yards, tallied a 20-yard scamper to put Gunter ahead by two scores at 20-6 with 3:20 left before halftime.
"Points that we can get when we're not on offense, those easy points, they're a huge help," said Sloan, who totaled four touchdowns in the win. "If we're able to get those, it makes the game easier."
Diaz provided a spark by corralling a loose ball before running his way into the endzone for a 66-yard touchdown to get the Eagles within eight points as both teams went into their respective locker room.
"It was a great play and what a great way for our senior leader and captain of the football team to scoop that up and go score," Lander said. "There was a guy behind him and he went out there and scored it.
"It changed the momentum greatly and was a huge play for our defense."
But, that was all the offense Roosevelt mustered the rest of the way.
Gunter, which advanced to the state title game for the fourth time in six seasons, showed its defensive dominance by shutting out the Eagles in the final two quarters.
"All I know is this team is my family," Diaz said, following the contest. "We built a winning culture. I do remember coming into this school my freshman season and being 0-10 and not having won a game in two seasons.
"I remember our coaches just kept telling us to keep believing and know that we'll do better. ... This story that we built at this school is more than a state championship, I believe."
Gunter (15-0) is scheduled to play Franklin (15-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the state championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Gunter 47, Roosevelt 12
Roosevelt 0 12 0 0 — 12
Gunter 7 13 20 7 — 47
GHS — Ethan Sloan 1 run, (Logan Hubbard kick); 7:41
RHS — Alex Treviño 10 run, (Run fail); 9:09
GHS — Ethan Sloan 76 kickoff return (Kick fail); 8:56
GHS — Sloan 20 run (Hubbard kick); 3:20
RHS —JJ Diaz 66 fumble return (Run fail); 0:23
GHS — Ashton Bennett 4 run (Pass fail); 8:45
GHS — Cole Lemons 16 pass from Hudson Graham (Hubbard kick); 2:10
GHS — Ivy Hellman 10 run (Hubbard kick); 1:43
GHS — Sloan 9 run, (Hubbard kick); 9:01
First downs: (RHS) 11; (GHS) 20
Rushes-Yards: (RHS) 51-212; (GHS) 22-301
Passing: (RHS) 0; (GHS) 111
Comp-Att-Int: (RHS) 0-3-1; (GHS) 5-8-0
Punts-Avg: (RHS) 3-37.0; (GHS) 1-24
Fumbles-Lost: (RHS) 1-1; (GHS) 2-2
Penalties-Yards: (RHS) 3-15; (GHS) 4-45
RUSHING: Roosevelt, Alex Treviño 22-100, Hunter Woods 1-1, Nathen Casarez 1-4, JJ Diaz 12-58, Nate Gensler 8-13, Zach Bryant 5-17, Octavio Rodriguez 2-19. Gunter, Team 1-1, Logan Pierce 1-2, Hudson Graham 13-107, Cannon Lemberg 1-3, Cade Dodson 6-33, Brayden Hinton 3-21, Sail Rodriguez 1-4, Ashton Bennett 8-39, Ivy Hellman 1-10, Ethan Sloan 9-81.
PASSING: Roosevelt, Alex Treviño 0-3-1—0. Gunter, Hudson Graham 5-8-0—11.
RECEIVING: Roosevelt, None. Gunter, Cannon Lember 1-29, Ivy Hellman 1-40, Ethan Sloan 2-26, Cole Lemons 1-16.
RECORDS: Roosevelt 14-1. Gunter 15-0.