If all went according to plan - and according to seed - Desert Vista should have had little trouble with visiting Phoenix North Canyon Friday night at Thunder Stadium.
But, alas, things don't always go to the way they're supposed to.
That was confirmed by the pregame dust storm and heavy second- and fourth-quarter rain showers; it was confirmed by the simple fact that come playoff time, all bets are off.
And, most notably, it was proven by 14th-seeded North Canyon's plucky attempt at an upset over No. 3 Desert Vista.
But while the host Thunder got all they could handle from the Rattlers for the first two-and-a-half quarters - to the tune of a 7-point lead score midway through the third - order was restored as Desert Vista pulled away late for a 42-7 win that was much closer than the score would indicate.
Three scores from senior running back Dominic Kereluk and a wildly efficient night in the pocket by senior quarterback Hunter Rodriguez allowed Desert Vista to overcome a slow offensive start to score once in the third and three times in the fourth and reach the second round of the Division II state tournament.
Kereluk's efforts inside the red zone kept North Canyon at bay early and also began the second half charge.
He scored Desert Vista's first three touchdowns - from seven, 11 and 12 yards out - en route to 80 yards rushing on 17 carries. Michael Arredondo's 1-yard touchdown run, along with runs of 13 and 10 by Zach Gonzalez and Khalil Kennedy, respectively, capped the scoring for the Thunder in the fourth.
Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said that while it's not entirely gameplanned who he'll go to near the goalline, it's not necessarily by chance either.
"A lot of times it depends what the defenses are giving us. (Kaleb) Germinaro was so hot early in the season on the fly sweep, that teams are now loading up on us. So that opens up the inside running with Michael and Dominic," he said, specifically noting that Kereluk had the hot hand on this one. "They all seem to be ready, and when we call their number, they all seem to step up."
North Canyon struggled on the ground, managing fewer than 40 yards rushing as a team on 26 carries. Sophomore Gerard Hernandez led the way with 32 yards on 11 carries, with a 1-yard run for the Rattlers' only touchdown.
Through the air could have been another story, as junior Tre Grant completed 13 of 21 passes for 106 yards, with a few bad throws scattered in between. But Grant saw quite a bit of pressure from the Thunder defense, too.
Chandler Kimball intercepted a pass and recorded a sack, while Lorenzo Melvin had two sacks and a fumble recovery to lead the Thunder defensive charge.
Early on, Rodriguez's night had the makings of potential ho-hum stat line as dust and wind littered the air early, and heavy rains came down during the second quarter - leaving the field, and ultimately the game balls, wet for the duration.
But the senior still completed 11 of 17 passes for 180 yards, and would have had even better numbers if not for a few drops from his otherwise sure-handed receiving corps.
"Tonight was definitely different," Rodriguez said. "We haven't played in weather like this all year. I think it was great to get to experience and come out of it."
Desert Vista will be home again next week, hosting sixth-seeded Pinnacle Thursday night at 7 p.m.
The second round playoff game will mean this is the third consecutive season the team's will play each other, despite their locations are clear opposite ends of the greater Phoenix Valley. Desert Vista defeated the Pioneers 28-7 on the road last year in the Thunder's second game of the season; Pinnacle won the meeting two years ago, 28-21, at Thunder Stadium.