It started as a reaction to what was given to them, but a slight change in philosophy in the Desert Vista running game has the Thunder on a historic path one yard at a time.

The offense has long been predicated on the execution or threat of the fly sweep with players like Mike Ingression and Allante Battle in previous years and Kaleb Germinaro in 2011.

Think speed, elusiveness and a running head start around the corner of the defense.

Opposing defenses have known it is coming for years and the Thunder still manage to execute it.

It started out that way again this season, but then defenses really started scheming against it. It left, per usual, the interior of the defense a little soft.

Maybe more than ever the offensive line and the three primary running backs were equipped to pound the ball between the tackles.

"The three-headed monster is what we call them," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. "It changed when teams started taking away the fly. It naturally gives more inside runs and the O-line takes a lot of pride in the run."

The third-seeded Thunder (11-1) unofficially piled up 249 yards on the ground against No. 6 Pinnacle on Friday in 52-7 romp in the state Division I quarterfinals as they head into Friday's semifinal matchup against No. 7 Basha at Mesquite High.

The total moves this year's running total to 2,449 yards on the season, which is just off the third-highest mark in the 16 years of football at Desert Vista as the 2004 squad had of 2,479 yards.

Seniors Dominic Kereluk (767 yards) and Mike Arredondo (556) do most of the damage in the middle while junior Jarek Hilgers (453) has thighs the size of large watermelons blasting through the middle when he gets a chance to spell them.

There are even times when all three are in the backfield at the same time.

"Jarek and I have been waiting for that," Arredondo said. "We love it up the gut. All three of us have adapted to do it. The line has been on all year and they love getting more physical."

While the fly sweep will never go away - Germinaro (409 yards) scored on a 38-yarder against Pinnacle - the offense has become more focused on attempts between the tackles since about the Corona del Sol game in week 5.

"They just do what they do," Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke said. "It's not that fancy at all. They just come at you and they have skill players all over the field. Most people we play I feel like we win the physical battle but that wasn't the case tonight."

The offensive line has had some moving parts this season with injuries and suspensions but regardless of the combination they just keep pushing around the defensive front other than maybe the Hamilton defeat.

Against Pinnacle junior Cole Preston was the center, the left side was manned by juniors Mitch Wehrli (guard) and Sam Hartman (tackle) while junior guard Zack Tamburo and senior tackle J.J. Dielman did the damage on the right side. Senior Ryan Hawkinson and junior Dylan Busch have contributed as starters this year as well.

"They do it and make it easy for us sometimes," Hilgers said. "We love those guys and we want to keep them happy."

The Thunder will try to keep it going against 9-3 Basha, which gave up 163 points in three straight losses near the end of the regular season before winning its last three games.

"We have the confidence that we can run against anyone we face," Kereluk said. "The passing game with Hunter (Rodriguez) has been great and that makes us even harder to stop, but we always feel like we can get the yards we need on the ground."

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

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