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Santilla’s versatility helps O’Hara win third straight

CHESTER >> Justin Santilla is the little brother of Cardinal O’Hara great and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Corey Brown.

Of all the sage advice Brown has passed down, Santilla says there’s one thing that sticks out above the rest.

“He tells me to stay humble,” said Santilla, a junior wide receiver/strong safety. “That’s what’s most important. Be humble, every single day.”

Santilla has some of big bro’s gifts on the gridiron. He can run, catch and play a steady defensive back. He can punt, too.

Santilla did all of those things Saturday to help Cardinal O’Hara claim a 41-6 victory over Chester. The Lions are 3-0 for the first time since 2010.

ANNE NEBORAK/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Cardinal O'Hara's Nick Kuturafis tries to break free from Chester's Lahneir McBride and Tahiaj Cooper in Saturday's nonleague game. Kutufaris had a rushing touchdown in the Lions' 41-6 win.

ANNE NEBORAK/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
Cardinal O’Hara’s Nick Kutufaris tries to break free from Chester’s Lahneir McBride and Tahiaj Cooper in Saturday’s nonleague game. Kutufaris had a rushing touchdown in the Lions’ 41-6 win.

Santilla caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Tommy O’Hara late in the second quarter. It was a nice post route down the Chester sideline from 30 yards out. The quick-six pretty much buried the Clippers (1-2), who trailed by 21 points at intermission.

Santilla had two catches for 44 yards on the afternoon. O’Hara the quarterback didn’t have to air the ball out too much, but was effective when he did, going 3 of 5 for 53 yards.

“That team is a bunch of track stars. They have fast kids,” Santilla said. “We had to be physical with them, that’s what the coaches were preaching all week. It got the job done today.”

O’Hara’s Des Holmes, Stephon Brown, Steve Randazzo, Ryan Harlow and Colin Hickey blew the Clippers off the ball at that line of scrimmage. It happened again and again. Their dominance allowed Nick Kutufaris and Te’Ron Johnson to run freely. The offensive line also paved the way for Tom O’Hara out of the shotgun. He ran seven designed QB draws for 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bobby Siderio also got in on the fun, as the Lions’ No. 2 signal caller carried the ball five times for 18 yards and a score.

Maybe there should be a nickname for O’Hara and Siderio, both of whom are about the same size and height.

Thunder and thunder?  Rumble and tumble?

They are two big, strong quarterbacks who can run — albeit not with a ton of speed — and are hard to tackle.

“It’s nothing too bad,” O’Hara said, laughing. “We just got to get the job done, getting up there and taking the ball. … We have some pretty big guys (on the line), so you don’t want to run too fast. You kind of have to stay level with them. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself, you just want to be patient. So when we run that play, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. Be patient and get in the end zone.”

The Lions hit paydirt on six occasions Saturday morning. O’Hara had scoring runs of 1 and 3 yards in the first quarter to give the Lions a 14-0 cushion. Chester showed life in the second quarter when Jamir Green threw a strike in the corner of the end zone to Davouge Hopkins, a play that helped the Clippers win their season opener against Haverford. The 12-yard touchdown connection was one of few positives for Chester.

Cardinal O’Hara’s defense limited Chester to zero yards rushing. Leading rusher Devan Freeman carried the ball only six times for six yards.

Overall, the Lions outgained the Clippers, 297-101. Henderson paced the Lions

ANNE NEBORAK/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Chester's Davouge Hopkins catches a touchdown pass from Jamir Green in Saturday's nonleague game against Cardinal O'Hara.

ANNE NEBORAK/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
Chester’s Davouge Hopkins catches a touchdown pass from Jamir Green in Saturday’s nonleague game against Cardinal O’Hara.

on the ground with 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 totes, while Johnson chipped in with 56 yards on nine totes.

After back-to-back one-win seasons, it’s clear that Cardinal O’Hara football is on the rise again. Saturday’s lopsided win should convince the doubters.

It starts with a Jim and Mike Connor defense and grows. The Lions have given up just 12 points in three games.

“The culture around O’Hara the last few years, defensively, has been so soft that it’s really disgusting. (But) I think we showed something today,” second-year O’Hara coach B.J. Hogan said. “Chester is a very, very good football team. They’re going to win a bunch of games. But offensively and defensively, we played well all-around today. We had guys who flew to the ball, that’s a great thing to see.

“This is why, Jim and Mike (Connor), we hired those guys. Today was the first time in 14 games (since Hogan became head coach) where our guys stepped up and they were chasing the ball. It’s why we talked about being extremely physical and just challenging our guys to see if they can do it for four quarters, because that’s what it’s going to take to compete in the Catholic League.”

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