It did not take long for Blaise Santini to realize he wasn’t in Kansas any longer.
The Phillipsburg senior football player had shifted from tight end to tackle for this season, and he got his first taste of interior line play in the Stateliners’ opening quad scrimmage with Union, St. John Vianney and Warren Hills.
“After that I walked up to (P’burg assistant) coach Mark Bigelli and said. ‘This is not tight end’,” Santini said. “It’s a lot more physical.”
That was fine with the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Santini, who likes contact; he enjoys lacrosse in the spring because of its physicality and resemblance to football. But it did take some time to adjust to.
“I had worked with the tackles when I was playing tight end, and a sense of what they were doing, but it’s completely different,” Santini said. “I had re-learn all my blocking schemes after transferring to tackle.”
Santini has learned pretty well, as he’s become an anchor of a Phillipsburg offensive line that has guided the way for a successful running game and protected the quarterback well en route to a 2-0 start.
But Santini and his teammates know they’ll really have to pick things up when Bridgewater-Raritan arrives at Maloney Stadium Friday night for a Mid-State 38 Delaware Division battle of unbeatens.
“We definitely have a long way to go as an offensive line,” he said. “There a lot of things we need to improve on.”
The willingness to learn is certainly there.
“Blaise is a really unselfish player to give up playing tight end to move to tackle,” Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy said. “He’s done a tremendous job picking up what he has needed to do at tackle in a short amount of time.”
Santini appreciated the compliment.
“It’s been something new to me, and I enjoyed playing tight end,” he said. “But the team needs me more at tackle, and I do get on the field more and play more.”
The blocking technique is very different at tackle than tight end, requiring a secure knowledge of where the play is going. And at tight end, the blocking was usually in one direction – outside. At tackle, it can be either outside or inside block, blocking up or down, and turning inside can mean getting caught up in the maelstrom of mayhem that can be the interior line on power runs.
“You have to play fast and physical,” Santini said. “You have to raise your level on every play.”
Santini has been adjusting to his new role on offense while excelling at defensive end as a part of a defensive line that has been absolutely dominant against the run in the first two wins against Franklin and Hunterdon Central. The defense has allowed an average of 52.5 yards rushing so far and almost none of that between the tackles, and no small part of that is Santini’s ability to set a hard edge at defensive end.
“In the offseason my focus was getting better at playing defensive end,” Santini said. “I knew I wanted to be more dedicated in my training and I know there’s always room for improvement.”
Room that Blaise Santini knows how to fill up pretty well.
Brad Wilson may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.