The holes are essentially in the same place and Dominic Kereluk is running the same patterns as last season.

Yet the results are so very different for the Desert Vista senior.

The reasons are a bit convoluted, but one thing is clear as Kereluk's breakout season continues Thursday night when Desert Vista (6-0) hosts streaking Hamilton (6-0).

The hesitation is gone.

"Last year, I really didn't know what position I was and I was thinking too much," Kereluk said. "I was a running back, wide receiver, slot back. The coaching staff wasn't sure what to do with me."

That has changed in 2011 and so has the 6-foot, 195-pounder. One of the reasons Kereluk had a hit-and-miss type season as a junior was because there were times he admittedly battled with the team concept.

"I struggled with some things last year, but by the end of the year I was back to where I needed to be," he said. "It really set me up to have a great summer with my team."

Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds didn't want to retrace Kereluk's route to becoming one of the Thunder's main offensive threats as much as he wanted to talk about the player he is this season.

"He is a totally different kid this year," said Hinds, whose squad looks to stop Hamilton's 46-game win streak. "Dominic Kereluk has worked hard to gain the respect and confidence of his teammates and that has been the difference.

"He is a team player. I am not going to say he wasn't last year, but I am going to say he is a different kid this year."

It's led to an all-around game that was fully on display against Corona del Sol two weeks ago when Kereluk had nine carries for 80 yards with a touchdown and had four catches for 75 yards.

He followed it up with 17 carries for 155 yards with a touchdown and two catches for 37 yards last week against Saguaro. Overall, he has 52 carries for 428 yards and seven touchdowns and nine catches for 178 yards.

"The offense has a lot of options and we are in a good groove," Kereluk said. "The more options we have the harder it is to stop us."

Kereluk, who had 324 yards rushing and 12 catches for 141 yards in 2010, said he has a different comfort level this year that has allowed him to be better prepared each week.

"Last year was a great experience working with the varsity coaches for the first time," he said. "I started to get some trust and I'm not worried about anything other than winning."

One reason for that is the addition of running backs coach Terrance Roberts to the staff. Hinds saw Roberts in the SEV youth football league and liked the way he dealt with kids.

Now, he is having a positive influence on Kereluk and others.

"He is teaching kids to run the ball, but he is great with the kids' psyche," Hinds said. "I watched how he treated kids and the way he coached with emotion. He is managing those kids so well."

It has helped Kereluk straighten out off field stuff and become part of an offensive attack that more and more features three power backs with Mike Arredondo and Jarek Hilgers chewing up huge yardage.

Kereluk hopes it pays off with a state title on the way to playing next fall at a college somewhere.

"I'm more focused and realize how important that is," said Kereluk, who wants to major in criminal justice. "I know I can help us win a lot of games and then I think I can help a (college) team. I just want to keep playing."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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