GameNight: Desert Vista pounds Basha on way to third title game - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Game Day

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GameNight: Desert Vista pounds Basha on way to third title game

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Posted: Saturday, November 19, 2011 12:07 am

The dismissals came weekly.

Real or fabricated the perception in the Desert Vista locker room was they were an afterthought as state title contenders.

Whether it came from the media or an anonymous message board poster, Desert Vista felt a sense of slight and week-by-week someone paid for it.

Basha was next in line Friday and the Thunder plowed through for another win, this time in the Division I semifinals at Mesquite High, as Desert Vista bum rushed the Bears 42-32.

"No one believed we could do this," Thunder senior running back Dominic Kereluk said. "They can't stop us now. We are on our way to Glendale and we have one more game to play."

Desert Vista, the third seed, will face No. 1 Hamilton (13-0) next Saturday with a 2 p.m. kickoff at University of Phoenix Stadium. It will be a rematch of Week 7 when the Huskies won 35-10.

Against No. 7 Basha (9-4), the Thunder (12-1) used its physical offensive line to get to its third state title game and second since 2007.

Desert Vista rushed for 381 on 40 attempts and all six of their scores game on the ground as Jarek Hilgers (9 carries, 133 yards, 2 TDs), Mike Arredondo (9 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs), Kereluk (13 carries, 81 yards) and Kaleb Germinaro (6 carries, 96 yards, TD) had plenty of room to roam.

"The offensive line was amazing," said Hilgers, a junior. "When we got (into the second level) the wide receivers blocked, too."

The only one who came off the line faster and harder than the Thunder's men in the trenches might have been their coach Dan Hinds, who lost one of his shoes on the field when he dashed onto the field in celebration after Germinaro's 20-yard touchdown with 4 minutes and 30 seconds left for a 35-24 lead.

"It's a tremendous feeling to see these kids have everything pay off," said Hinds, who quickly pointed out they weren't satisfied getting there. "They've wanted this for so long. They made big commitments to do everything they needed to and we are here."

Basha never led but never let it get out of hand, either.

"They whipped us up front," Basha coach Bernie Busken told reporters. "We made some strides this year. We have a lot of kids coming back next year, and we'll work hard to keep getting better."

The Bears, who were in the semifinals for the first time since 2006, challenged the Desert Vista defense for one of the first times all year as sophomore running back Rajhan Meriwether (20 carries, 113 yards) ran tough and quarterback Kyle Duran ran for two scores and while his accuracy wasn't his best he threw for 172 yards on 12 completions.

The Bears scored a late touchdown and with the two-point conversion, but the Thunder's student section was already on the track waiting to let loose.

If it wasn't for a rare bad decision by Thunder quarterback Hunter Rodriguez the outcome probably would have been decided much earlier.

With the Thunder leading 21-10 and having just recovered a muffed punt at the Basha 34-yard line with 1:16 left in the half, Rodriguez was pressured, slid to his left and let go of a pass when he saw a Thunder receiver in the flat, but what he didn't see was Basha senior Quinten Del Re as he stepped in front for a 65-yard interception return to close within 21-17 at the half.

"I didn't see him, but my team made sure it didn't cost us anything," said Rodriguez, who was 9 of 15 for 120 yards. "We weren't going to let one mistake cost us our dream."

Hinds said the locker room at halftime was fine despite the sudden change in momentum. It just focused them on finishing what they started.

"We didn't make any adjustments at halftime," Hinds said. "We came back out and wanted to keep pounding away. Hunter was just trying to make something happen and they got an interception."

The win at Mesquite was a rare one for the 35 Desert Vista seniors. They lost their as freshmen for their lone defeat. The season ended in the semifinals in 2010 with a loss against Desert Ridge under those same lights.

"I hate this field," Arredondo said. "We owed someone with the history we've had here."

History is just one game away as the Thunder try to win their second state since the school opened 16 years ago.

"I didn't start thinking about it until the final seconds, but that is what is in front of us now,' senior lineman J.J. Dielman. "One more game to try and complete what we set out to do."

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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