Shaw Loomer knew he let one get away, but he wasn't going to let it get him.

The Desert Vista senior's attitude after a dropped pass in last year's state semifinals epitomizes the team's approach to this season.

Instead of being brought down by the drop pass - the Thunder were trailing 21-17 and he probably would have scored in what became a 41-17 loss to Desert Ridge - Loomer became motivated.

"I just told myself I wasn't going to let it happen again," he said.

It is the same feeling that drove the Thunder all offseason after losing in the state semifinals a year after winning just two games.

"You know, they said that wasn't good enough," said Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds, who has the Thunder in the semifinals for the third time since 2007. "It is one thing to say it, but I saw it in their actions. I knew this year's team was going to have some high expectations, and we haven't attained them yet."

The third-seeded Thunder (11-1) are back to the semifinals with No. 7 Basha (9-3) up next for Friday's 7 p.m. kickoff at Mesquite High in Gilbert.

Desert Vista is looking to rid itself of last season's disappointment, and the only way to do that is to beat the Bears and take a shot at winning the school's second state championship.

"It really started to hit me in the fourth quarter against Pinnacle," Desert Vista senior Mike Arredondo said. "We have been working toward this as soon as last season ended. We have been so focused on each game you don't try to think ahead, but now we are there.

"That loss (to Desert Ridge) pushed us all offseason. We talked about how close we were and that we weren't going to be stopped this year."

The Thunder have been at its best in the postseason, winning the first two games by a combined score of 94-14 in laying waste to No. 14 North Canyon (42-7) and No. 6 Pinnacle (52-7).

"We have been playing at a different level in the playoffs," Hinds said. "We've had great weeks of practices, and it has led to good execution on the field. We are in for a bigger challenge this week, and I know we will be ready."

The Thunder seem to be one of those cliché teams that are a close knit family.

There are 35 seniors that have shared many meals, competed against each other as youths, and have busted each other's chops in the locker room. The talented junior class has secured plenty of the starting spots and the additions to a previous stable coaching staff have brought some new insight and approach to an already established program.

"We have a great group of kids who trust each other," Arredondo said. "When we struggle we know we can count on each other to have our backs. We don't crumble like some other teams might when it gets tough."

It all adds up to one of the best seasons in school history.

And, yet, a sense of failure will engulf the program should the Thunder come up short against Basha.

It could be a bit of a burden if the players allowed it, but they are having so much fun while performing at a level any coach would hope for that it is not a worry heading into the Basha game.

"We know what is at stake, and it is why I worked so hard to come back," said Loomer, who dislocated his shoulder in Week 5, but returned last week. "Everything we did all offseason put us in this position. We are not going to take a step back now."

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

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