All-Empire Large School Football: Porchivina the most feared player on defense

John Porchivina will take his talents to Berkeley where he’ll play defense for Cal. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

John Porchivina will take his talents to Berkeley where he’ll play defense for Cal. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It would have been something to see, the hardest-hitting defensive player in the Redwood Empire filling the gap and going chest-to-shoulder with our most rugged running back. Yep, John Porchivina vs. John Porchivina. You might have been able to hear the collision from Sausalito.

Porchivina was voted Back of the Year in the North Bay League after rushing for 1,681 yards and 20 touchdowns, and adding 321 yards and five scores on 24 receptions. After getting to the end zone, he would come to the sidelines for a beat, then trot back out to play defense. Stellar defense.

“He gave us our toughness,” Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog said. “He was one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached. And then other guys started following his lead. We had a pretty tough defense. But it all began with Porch.”

No one was more feared on local high school fields this year, and no one was more versatile than Porchivina, who is big (6-foot-1, 215 pounds), fast and determined.

“He’s our adjuster,” Herzog said. “He can play four different positions on defense. For colleges, he was being recruited at running back, inside linebacker, outside linebacker and strong safety. He’s just a flat-out great football player.”

Porchivina wound up accepting a scholarship to play linebacker at Cal.

At Casa, he was Herzog’s ever-moving chip. Porchivina played outside linebacker for most of the first half of the season. Then Herzog started putting him at defensive end in passing situations. And sometimes at inside linebacker. (Against Cardinal Newman, Porchivina played seven snaps at inside linebacker, and blitzed on six of them.) When the Gauchos went to a 4-4 scheme with two-deep coverage, Porchivina moved to safety.

One formation had him lining up at middle linebacker. Casa called it “Ginger” in honor of Porchivina’s fiery orange hair.

Wherever he began the play, he frequently finished it at the football. Porchivina made 87 tackles and terrorized opposing quarterbacks with 11 sacks, both second on the team. He also intercepted three passes and forced four fumbles. He wasn’t the only elite player on Casa Grande’s defense, a unit that had 43 takeaways and 53 sacks in 14 games. But he was the guy who demanded excellence.

Herzog remembers addressing his players at halftime one night. The score was tight. The Gauchos were flat. The coach bellowed, “You’re playing like crap. It’s time to step up and be a man.” He was talking to the whole team, but he was looking right at Porchivina, who had turned in a rare lackluster performance.

“You can’t challenge every kid like that,” Herzog said. “Every year, you have one or two who respond to that. And Porchivina is one of them. He would always accept the challenge, and he understood that you were just trying to get the best of him.”

Porchivina responded with a dominant second half that night. He’s a young man with a thick skin, and something of a mean streak, all elbows and stiff arms and icy glares — at least when he’s playing football.

Off the field? “He’s a teddy bear,” Herzog said. “He’s a sweet kid, very polite, very respectful.”

On the field, Porchivina was more like a grizzly bear, and the Gauchos were happy to have him.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.

ALL-EMPIRE TEAM

Offensive Player of the Year

JaJuan Lawson, quarterback, Casa Grande, Senior

Defensive Player of the Year

John Porchivina, linebacker, Casa Grande, Senior

Coach of the Year

Trent Herzog, Casa Grande

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

QB: Keaton Dunsford, Cardinal Newman, Senior

RB: Logan Francavilla, Montgomery, Senior

RB: Ja’Narrick James, Analy, Junior

WR: Matt Basich, Windsor, Senior

WR: Kevin Lucey, Cardinal Newman, Senior

WR: Kerr Johnson Jr., Analy, Junior

OL: Jacob Hicks, Analy, Senior

OL: Brendan Jackson, Casa Grande, Junior

OL: Nick McCloskey, Petaluma, Senior

OL: Matthew Robinson, Sonoma Valley, Senior

OL: Julian Tomayo, Windsor, Senior

PK: Matt Abramo, Casa Grande, Junior

DEFENSE

DL: Steven DeSouza, Rancho Cotate, Senior

DL: Daniel Greisen, Casa Grande, Senior

DL: Jacob Sloma, Healdsburg, Junior

LB: Tyler Gabriel, Piner, Senior

LB: Miles Gardea, Casa Grande, Senior

LB: Cody Hughson, Casa Grande, Senior

LB: Henry Stelzner, Montgomery, Senior

DB: Dan Deely, Sonoma Valley, Senior

DB: Etienne Ezeff, Montgomery, Senior

DB: Brad Freitas, Casa Grande, Senior

DB: Kieran Newell, Analy, Senior

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

QB: Colin McAlvain, Windsor, Senior

RB: Gabe Medina, Petaluma, Senior

RB: Alex Netherda, Maria Carrillo, Junior

WR: Niko Formosa, Piner, Senior

WR: Chris Taylor-Yamanoha, Rancho Cotate, Sophomore

OL: Jake Groesbeck, Maria Carrillo, Senior

OL: Micah Hamlow-Sawyer, Analy, Senior

OL: Justin Perry, Montgomery, Senior

OL: Alex Runge, Casa Grande, Senior

OL: Sean Wolfe, Cardinal Newman, Senior

K: Trent Klein, Cardinal Newman, Senior

TE: Jared Brazis, Maria Carrillo, Junior

DEFENSE

DL: Will Andrews, Cardinal Newman, Senior

DL: George Pennington, Montgomery, Senior

DL: Andrew Wollmer, Analy, Senior

LB: T.J. Acheson, Analy, Junior

LB: Tanoa Peleti, Rancho Cotate, Senior

LB: Donavan Reece, Petaluma, Senior

LB: Jared Walker, Healdsburg, Senior

DB: Anthony Bautista, Montgomery, Senior

DB: Dylan Kolman, Cardinal Newman, Senior

DB: Andre Kupelian, Casa Grande, Senior

DB: Chris Pedroni, Healdsburg, Junior

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