Hunter Rodriguez ran the Desert Vista offense about as efficiently as can be expected through four weeks, but until Friday night did little more than hand off, watch the chains get moved, celebrate and walk off the field a winner.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder added a lot of three- and five-step drops to the to-do list against Corona del Sol and served up one of the best games of his career as the Thunder rolled the Aztecs 49-14 in a Division I non-section contest.
"Hunter Rodriguez was tremendous," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. "We haven't had to throw the ball much because the running game has been so strong, but we knew against a good team like Corona we were going to have to throw it."
Rodriguez finished 19 of 22 for 226 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions as Desert Vista (5-0) showed a different type offense than in the previous four weeks. Rodriguez had only 36 attempts coming into the game, but he promises he never cared.
"It didn't matter at all," said Rodriguez, who has been offered a scholarship by Idaho. "We were winning. What was there to complain about?"
The most impressive moment came in the final minute of the first half. Corona (3-2) was forced to punt and Desert Vista took over on its own 47-yard line with 54 seconds left.
Four passes later, Rodriguez found Kaleb Germinaro near the right pylon for a score and a 21-8 halftime lead. The drive took 19 seconds as the Corona defense was sliced and diced.
Rodriguez completed two quick sideline passes then stood in the pocket with 6-7, 305-pound Andrus Peat bearing down on him. Rodriguez was blasted but only after he got the pass off and hit Germinaro (4 catches, 50 yards) for 30 yards over two defenders.
"It was about as good of a drive as you could have," Hinds said.
The second half was much of the same as Jarek Hilgers scored on a 31-yard run and an 8-yard swing pass in the third quarter to push the lead to 35-8.
"They have one or two more athletes than us," Corona coach Tom Joseph said. "We still had tons of opportunities. We had mental mistakes that just slaughtered us and started to hang our heads a little bit."
Corona came and out and did exactly what it wanted to with its wing-T offense as it racked up yards, ate up the clock and kept the Thunder offense off the field with the lone drawback of never finding the end zone in the first quarter.
The Aztecs held the ball for 10 minutes and 15 seconds of the 12-minute first quarter compared to Desert Vista's five offensive plays.
Corona got on the board first when Dominic Mercurio (28 carries for 146 yards) scored from 3 yards out and the sidelines went nuts when the special teams perfectly executed the 2-point conversion and led 8-0 with 11:56 remaining in the second half.
"I thought that was going to set the tone as to how we were going to play," Corona senior Avery Moss said. "We mentally broke down as a team and started blaming each other. We have to stay together as a family and stick it out no matter what."
The Aztecs have come along in Joseph's first five games considering the 1-9 debacle of last season.
Corona just hasn't developed enough to take on a state semifinalists playing with confidence while playmakers like Rodriguez and Dominic Kereluk (13 touches, 157 yards, TD) show off their talents.
"We kept it up after the half," Kereluk said. "We fixed all our mistakes and executed. When we play like that it is hard to stop is because we have so many options."