The Desert Vista offense requires some finesse and athleticism from the offensive line and this year's group is proving to be more than capable.

The fly sweep, which requires a lot of moving parts from the offensive line, has been the big-play as always considering the two main ball carriers on the play - Kaleb Germinaro (20.9 yards per carry) and Matt Smith (10.4 per carry) - have combined for 386 yards on 22 carries.

It's a point of pride in getting the offense's signature play off and working smoothly, but this year's unit just might prefer the nastiness of a power running game as the Thunder (5-0) heads into Friday's game at Division III Saguaro (5-0).

"The power running game is lights ahead of last year," junior guard Zach Tamburo said. "We're bigger, stronger and more physical. We are knocking guys off the ball."

It helps to have a power running game when the 6-foot, 195-pound Dominic Kereluk and 6-2, 218-pound Mike Arredondo running up the gut.

Against Mountain Pointe, Westwood and Corona del Sol the last two weeks, the offensive line created a lot holes between the tackles with Arredondo gashing the Pride early and Kereluk breaking loose against the Aztecs.

"This is a very physical group," Thunder coach Dan Hinds said. "The three new guys have really fed of Tamburo and (J.J.) Dielman. They are a couple of physical guys and the others are following their lead."

The "others" are first-year starters are tackle Sam Hartman, guard Mitch Wehrli and center Cole Preston.

They are all juniors and have mostly played other positions in their career. They weren't guaranteed spots, but found a way into the lineup and have come together pretty quickly.

"We have really bonded and worked well together," said Tamburo, who has played center and guard in his career. "We've done a good job of getting to know each other and making sure we know how communicate."

Preston, who was a right guard on JV last season, said the transition to center was made easier by Tamburo's experience and the guidance of Dielman, who has offers from Utah, UNLV, San Diego State, San Jose State and Northern Arizona.

"It was frustrating at first but Tamburo brings great energy and J.J. is a great leader," he said. "We compete with each, pick each other up and really feed off each other."

Hartman was a guard on JV last year and moved to tackle this year. He got a chance to see some varsity action last season on special teams, but ended up breaking his collarbone in the state quarterfinals.

While the injury ended his year abruptly, Hartman was back at it by spring ball when the line started forging its continuity.

"We were confident we were going to be good," he said. "Then we came out and started pushing people around. Each game we are getting better execution wise and we are getting tighter every week."

Hartman is playing guard for the season year in a row, but played tackle as a freshman. He has made the jump to varsity without much of step back unlike the defensive lines they have been attacking.

The Thunder are averaging 233.8 yards rushing a game despite the first unit rarely playing a full fourth quarter. The combination has been even better than they expected.

"The one thing about this offensive line they are very intelligent so they could transition between positions without much trouble," Hinds said. "We knew what we had in J.J. and Tamburo, but the other guys and to compete and earn their spots. They played really well together as a unit.

"We were confident they were going to be good, but they really have helped us get to a different level because of their physical style. Each year brings a new group and these guys seem to really like to mix it up."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow Twitter @JskodaAFN.


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