STAMFORD, Conn. – King football standout Joey Santoro thrived wherever coach Dan Gouin put him. On Saturday, the Vikings are counting on the senior from Stamford to play one more big game in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference championships.
King meets St. Sebastian’s School of Needham, Mass., in Saturday’s game at Avon Old Farms School at 1 p.m. Santoro led the team there, scoring 13 touchdowns and rushing for 1,093 yards this season.
“For the last three years, he has been the engine for us,’’ Gouin said. “We had him at quarterback earlier this year, and then we moved him as Nick Della Jacono emerged. He always seems to find a way to make play.”
Santoro has rushed more than 100 yards in every game this fall for the Vikings (6-1). His best game was a 206-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 42-21 win over Kingswood-Oxford. He had 196 yards against Hopkins, and 190 against Hamden Hall.
Santoro, generously listed at 5 feet, 9 inches and 180 pounds, fought for 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns in last week’s upset of previously unbeaten St. Luke’s. When King needed a second half rally against the Storm, the Vikings turned to Santoro. He rushed for 70 yards in the second half, and his three-yard touchdown run with 4:23 remaining put the Vikings ahead for good.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s offense, defense or kick return, he always does something positive,” Gouin said. “He’s just that type of kid. If he was 6 feet tall, he’d be the No. 1 recruit in the country.”
Santoro, who also had five tackles against St. Luke’s, had a big year as a junior for the Vikings as well. He rushed for 996 yards and eight touchdowns and was the team’s top receiving threat. He caught 21 passes and had five touchdowns. He also had 1,203 yards rushing as a sophomore and scored six touchdowns. This year’s statistics are more impressive, though, because teams have focused on stopping him.
“I just took it day by day and didn’t let it get to my head,’’ Santoro said. “Everybody worked together to get where we are.”
The Vikings are playing in their first New England championship game since 2009. Santoro and his teammates have a chance to accomplish something even Silas Redd didn’t at King — win a playoff game. Redd, now a star at USC, went 0-2 with the Vikings in two playoff games on squads that included Kevin Pierre-Louis, now a starter at Boston College.
A playoff victory would be the icing on the cake for Santoro and the Vikings, who needed to beat St. Luke’s to advance.
“I’ve been at King for 13 years and played football for eight of them,’’ Santoro said. “This is what we’ve been looking forward to our whole lives. Now we want to go out and get one more win.”