Kyle Santini doesn’t look like he did in 2015.
And because of that, the Phillipsburg High School senior wide receiver isn’t playing like he did in 2015, either, as the Stateliner football team prepares to host Watchung Hills in a Mid-State 38 cross-over game Friday (7).
“Kyle has changed himself physically in the offseason; he really bought into our off-season program,” said Stateliner coach Frank Duffy. “He was really intense in the weight room, upper body, lower body, everything.”
Santini was a junior varsity wide receiver, and a good one, for Phillipsburg last season. But varsity is a different experience even for a veteran wide receiver.
“I have been a wide receiver since middle school, and I started there because it looked like a fun position to play and it has been fun,” said the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior.
It has been less and less fun to cover Santini, though, as the season has come along. After not making a catch in the Stateliners’ first two games, he’s caught three passes for 27 yards in the last two tilts with Bridgewater-Raritan and Hillsborough. That may not sound like a lot, but in Phillipsburg’s run-heavy approach, it’s almost Antonio Brown-like.
“Kyle has but his time in and work hard and was waited his turn to play,” Duffy said.
Santini was more modest.
“I was at the right place at the right time,” he said of his catches. “I still get butterflies at the beginning of every game; that’s why love this sport. I hope I can score a touchdown; I am just waiting for my day. The big thing catching the ball is to secure it; we really stress ball security in practice.”
Santini’s versatility also boosts the Stateliner offense.
“I started out playing at split end but coach switched me with (fellow senior wideoutGarrett DuPont) and I now I know inside and outside and I can go back and forth depending on what play it is,” said the Phillipsburg resident. “The blocking on the outside is different than inside. Outside, there’s a man in your face, you block him. Inside you’re looking at free safeties, linebackers, and you really have to know who to block.”
Santini’s skills have been sharpened working against his own secondary in practice.,
“I run with the first team offense but when we go to first defense I run scout team to make our corners better,” he said. “But they teach me a lot, how to get off coverage, how to get open. You know, (senior cornerback) Ja’Quan Jones isn’t the easiest person to run away from.”
Of course, Santini has gotten lots of experience getting away from his twin brother,Blaise, who plays offensive and defensive line for the Stateliners.
“Blaise (6-2, 205) is more of a power guy and I am the speedy one,” Kyle Santini said. “He’s always been bigger and I have always been faster. Blaise will say, ‘I’m going to get you,’ and I’ll say, ‘You have to catch me first’.”
The brothers, when not chasing each other, live, eat and breathe football.
“That’s all we talk about at home is football – all the time,” Kyle Santini said.
Blaise Santini said having Kyle on the team makes it even more special for him.
“I have always said my teammates were my brothers,” Blaise Santini said. “Now that Kyle’s on the varsity, it makes it feel even more like a family.”
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.