Caleb Portia Texas Class 4A defensive player of year

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Photo by KEVIN COOK Caleb Porchia introduces himself to Graham quarterback Tucker Horn on the third play of the game. Xavier Benson, 3, closes in.

Hawk defense led by headhunter in the middle

If defense wins championships, Pleasant Grove started its quest for a 16-0 season with a leg up – a middle linebacker who would go on to become the Texas Sportswriters Class 4A defensive player of the year.

Caleb Porchia

Many an opponent went home with a headache and a sore body after running into Caleb Porchia, who set the school record with 196 tackles and was voted most valuable defensive player in the Hawks’ 41-21 win over West Orange-Stark state championship game.

Blake Worley, his position coach, said every award Porchia receives is merited.

“Caleb is more than deserving of being defensive player of the year. I feel truly blessed to have been his coach,” Worley said. “It was so rewarding to see him grow as a person and as a player throughout his high school career.

“Caleb is a selfless athlete who leads by example and is the best inside linebacker I have ever coached. In my opinion, his instincts and skill set are second to none. I couldn’t be more proud of Caleb and I know great things are in store for him moving forward.”

In the championship game, Porchia led both teams with nine tackles. He and freshman lineman Landon Jackson shared three sacks and three tackles for loss.

Porchia on Tuesday signed to play for Ouachita Baptist University.

Porchia flourished at Pleasant Grove in a 3-4 defense designed to seal the outside and flow the play to the middle, where the two Calebs – junior Caleb Hemphill and Portia – lurked like hungry hammerhead sharks. The system worked right through the title game, where PG held WO-S to 43 yards.

“From side-to-side, this is the best group of linebackers I’ve coached,” said Worley, their position coach. “There were no weak links. Every one of them was a player. They worked well together, they play very hard, and they were unselfish. They’re good athletes, they’re smart and they’re courageous.”

Any highlight film of Pleasant Grove’s championship season is sure to include a series of crushing hits by Porchia: A sack and fumble when the game was close against Celina, a fumble recovery in the end zone against Gladewater, a brutal pounding of high-flying Graham in the state semifinal.

The opposing coaches who knew him best made Porchia a unanimous pick as District 7-4A most valuable defensive player.

“Caleb Porchia is the best inside linebacker I’ve had the pleasure to coach.  He has great instincts to the football and makes a ton of plays,” said head coach Josh Gibson. “He’s one of the hardest hitters I’ve coached as well.  There is no doubt that Porchia will have a great college football career.  He’s a HUGE reason we are so successful on the defensive side of the ball.”

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A veteran journalist and educator, Bill Owney is a 1980 graduate of the University of Florida. Writing awards include APME honors for investigative reporting, the Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Award for public service reporting and numerous awards for editorial, column and news writing. He served as publisher of the Atlanta Citizens Journal and Pittsburg Gazette when each paper won sweepstakes awards from the Texas Press and North and East Texas Press Associations. He spent 15 years as a public school teacher and is an adjunct professor of English at Texarkana College.

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