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UCLA-bound Porter pushes La Habra's drive for five
LA HABRA – La Habra football coach Frank Mazzotta has had a number of amazing players during his tenure with the Highlanders and he said linebacker/running back Aaron Porter stands out among the best he has coached.
"If you had 11 guys that worked as hard as he did, 11 guys that worked in the weight room as hard as he does, 11 guys that worked with that same level of intensity every day, you wouldn't worry about a thing," Mazzotta said.
Until the day comes when coaches can clone their star players, Mazzotta will have to settle for one Porter. Coaches around the CIF-Southern Section's Southwest Division already are having nightmares over the prospect of dealing with the player who committed to UCLA and is a leading candidate to be Orange County's defensive player of the year.
The Highlanders will be going for a county record fifth consecutive CIF title when they open the playoffs against Kennedy tonight at 7 at La Habra High.
"It gets exciting every year with the guys out here working hard," Porter said. "It gets intense out here during the playoffs."
There is not one ounce of cockiness in Porter. He is humble and soft spoken, but the linebacker in him surfaces when he is asked about his favorite aspect about football.
"I just love to hit people out here," Porter said. "That's the biggest thing. I love doing that."
Members of the Clan – La Habra's fans – love their linebackers, especially, old-school tough guys. Porter fits the bill. Porter has recorded 128 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, 16 quarterback hurries, 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.
When the Highlanders ran into running back issues due to injuries, Mazzotta called on Porter. He has 43 carries for 371 yards and nine touchdowns. That's 8.6 yards per carry.
"He's been like that his whole life," said Porter's father, Tony, who has been La Habra's defensive coordinator the past 13 seasons. "He'll do whatever to help the team. Like the running back situation. He wasn't too keen on that. He says I'll do whatever if it helps the team. He played running back one time a little bit in sixth grade."
When people talk about Porter, the first thing that comes up is his relentless work ethic.
"Nobody works harder than him," Mazzotta said.
"He is a hard, hard worker," Porter's father said. "I mean, he's worked harder than anyone we've had in my 14 years here. He started as a freshman for us, so he's a four-year starter. He's been out here four years. It doesn't matter if it's a day before the game and people are taking it easy, he's still going 100 miles per hour."
Porter, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior, never has lost a Freeway League or playoff game in his career.
Losing is pretty foreign to him.
Porter has been on winning teams ever since he started with the La Mirada Matadores as an 8-year-old in Pop Warner. Porter and many of his La Habra teammates, including Brett Bartolone, Cody Clements (Washington State) and Ahmad Avery (Cornell), played for what Porter called "a pretty stacked team."
"I've been winning my whole life," he said.
Porter's father was an assistant coach for those Pop Warner teams. Porter said he formed a unique bond and got to know the personalities of all his teammates from playing together since they were little kids.
La Habra is not a football program that ducks tough competition. Mazzotta tries to schedule the toughest teams he can for the Highlanders during the nonleague portion of the team's schedule. He believes it toughens up the Highlanders and gets them ready for the physical play his teams will face in the playoffs.
La Habra's only three losses of the regular season came during a stretch where they played three consecutive Trinity League teams from the Pac-5 Division. The Highlanders turned in valiant efforts but lost to Servite, 24-16, Orange Lutheran, 30-24, and St. John Bosco of Bellflower, 41-6.
"Coach Mazzotta always tells us preseason is what determines how you are going to do in the playoffs," Porter said, "and I think we played a pretty good preseason to do well in the playoffs.
"Servite's a great team; I give all the credit to them. They've always been good, but I think we had a pretty good game plan going in against them. We had a crazy week at practice, intense week at practice. We came out hard, but they came out on top."
Porter was highly sought after during the recruiting process and committed to UCLA.
"Staying close to my family, that's the biggest thing," Porter said of his commitment. "I've always been a UCLA fan since I was small. That's a big reason, too."
The other reason he decided to go with the Bruins was because they are going to allow him to play football and baseball. Porter will be one of the Freeway League's top returning outfielders.
"I'm playing both sports at UCLA," Porter said. "That will be a challenge. That's the plan. I honestly don't think I will (have time for anything else). Just sports and school."
Tony Porter believes his son will be up to the challenge.
"He's pretty much set to go for baseball," Porter's father said. "They said even if he redshirts in football there's a chance could start for the baseball team in the outfield.
"I talked to the Marlins yesterday and it looks like he might be getting drafted. He doesn't expect to be that high because he doesn't play all the summer tournaments because of football. We'll see where it ends up."
Maybe UCLA will have better luck with that cloning process.