Bryce Santana prefers defense. Primarily, he plays defense.
That doesn’t make him any less of an offensive threat, however.
The Los Lunas defensive end doubles as a running back for the Tigers in their heavy package, and the numbers speak for themselves.
Santana has rushed for 14 touchdowns so far this season, highlighted by a five touchdown game against Artesia in the second round of the playoffs. His longest was a 57 yard touchdown run against Sandia in September.
When Santana gets in on offense, the rest of the defensive line comes out with him. Tyler Kiehne lines up at tight end, and the Tigers put their defensive tackles in to block.
“Oh yeah, its fun getting to play a different side of the game and work on that technique as well,” Kiehne said.
Recently, the former quarterback got back in to the passing game as well, connecting with Kiehne on a seven-yard touchdown pass against Goddard.
The senior’s favorite thing about getting onto the offensive side of the ball is having the opportunity to go out and run people over instead of having someone try to do the same to him.
Listed at 6’3” and 250 pounds on MaxPreps, he has a distinct size advantage over most defenders, particularly when he gets into the second level, that makes them hard pressed to stop him.
“I couldn’t tell you what is going through my head, I’m just looking to get into the endzone,” Santana said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Santana wreaks havoc along with the rest of the Tigers defensive line.
He has recorded 10 sacks and 59 total tackles this season while helping the Tigers in their return to this weekends state championship.
Playing in his final season for the Tigers, Santana is in a position to be able to continue his career at the next level.
Currently, he has scholarship offers from Montana State University Northern, Southwestern Assemblies of God University and Western New Mexico. He has also take visits to Northern Arizona University as well as the University of New Mexico.
Staying close to home is a priority for him, he said, as well as finding a university that can help prepare him for the next phase of his life.
Santana hopes to become an engineer after he graduates. On Saturday, whether the Tigers win or lose, he will walk off the field at LLHS for the final time as a player and say goodbye to something that has been a big part of his life for the last four years.
Tigers head coach Jeremy Maupin said it’s fun for him to see his players earn opportunities for themselves at the next level like Santana has done.
“I do whatever I can to help these guys when they do get opportunities, but they are the ones that have had to put the work in and will continue to have to put the work in,” Maupin said.
“You’ve got to show up on the field, show up on film, show up in summer, all of those things. They’re doing the work, I’m just giving them an avenue to display what they’re doing, which is fun.”
In his time with the Tigers, Santana has certainly been able to make an impact.
Now, it just remains to be seen who will get to utilize his abilities on both sides of the ball at the next level.