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PETALUMA - When it was over last Friday night, with the thumping finally concluded and the record made, Casa Grande quarterback JaJuan Lawson walked up to teammate John Porchivina and gave his running back a compliment that would appear so lame.

"Thanks, Porch," Lawson said. That's it, that's all — Thanks, Porch.

Just two words, yet they had more meaning behind them than a page in a Russian novel. Thanks, Porch, for grabbing the spotlight. Thanks, Porch, for making life easier for me, and more difficult for those trying to defend us. Thanks, Porch, for giving a defense another headache.

"I'm a defensive coordinator," said Casa coach Trent Herzog, "but if I was designing a game plan to stop JaJuan and Porch, I wouldn't be getting much sleep the week before I played them."

So this week it's been Cardinal Newman's turn to buy a Costco-size portion of Excedrin PM. The two teams play for the North Bay League title at Newman tonight, although undefeated Casa has clinched at least a tie. It is a truism, maybe the most recognized of all truth about Empire football, that the road to a championship always goes through Cardinal Newman.

Which, of course, makes the lead-up to this game all the more intriguing.

How does a team with a most solid coaching staff — "I've always said Paul Cronin is the best coach in the area," Herzog said — put the kibosh on an offense that has two seniors who will play Division I football next fall?

That Casa's offense feels like it's traveling downhill at light speed is not as much hyperbole as it seems. Last Friday night against Windsor, Porchivina set a school rushing record with 301 yards. Hence, the compliment. And just the tip of the influence he and his quarterback have had.

Casa has scored 39 touchdowns this season. Lawson (15 passing, 10 rushing) and Porchivina (10 rushing) have accounted for 90 percent of all the Gauchos' touchdowns.

Casa has gained 3,811 yards on offense. Lawson (1,519 passing, 605 rushing) and Porchivina (1,039 rushing) have accounted for 85 percent of all yardage gained.

These guys aren't a 1-2 punch. They are two uppercuts to an exposed jaw.

"Keep feeding me!" Porchivina yelled to the Casa sideline late in the game last Friday. Porchivina is not given typically to such ego outbursts. In fact, he is quite the opposite of that. But he was feeling it. Every time Porchivina looked at his offensive line he was feeling it.

"They were making the holes so big," he said, "a truck could have been driven through it."

Porchivina didn't know how many yards he had. He did guess "it was probably over 100." Porchivina doesn't obsess about numbers. Rather, he obsesses about performance. Specifically, he obsesses about refusing to yield. In a sport in which toughness many times separates winners from losers, such an attitude is golden.

"He is as physical a player as I have ever coached," Herzog said.

Pain? Suffering? Whatever. Just ask him about that scar on his left bicep. It's in the shape of an "X." The surface is raised, the scar looking almost like a blister. Porchivina got the scar playing Pop Warner, when he was about 11.

"The players on the other team sharpened the chinstrap buckle on their helmets," Porchivina said.

To where the edge of each buckle was sharp like a knife, designed to cut flesh.

"Did you get angry?" I asked.

Porchivina shrugged.

"I'm not an angry player," he said.

"But did it motivate you to play harder?"

He shrugged again.

"I've learned to eliminate emotion when I play," Porchivina said. "I used to have trouble with that. But then I realized it's a weakness to let someone get inside your head. So I play calm. I don't try to get wound up."

Of course it helps to have skills to distance oneself from performance-robbing emotion. Nothing quiets down chatter and trash talking like busting a big gain.

"Both JaJuan and Porch have two touchdowns this year that went over 80 yards," Herzog said.

So it's not nice or smart to tug on Superman's cape, not when Superman can break a game open in seconds. Porchivina has a 4.6 40-yard dash to his credit. Along with his frame, he's 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, and his ability to find a hole, it's easy to understand why Idaho, Sacramento State and the University of New Mexico already have verbally offered Porchivina scholarships.

Porchivina doesn't see college right now. He sees Newman. He sees his offensive linemen. He sees that he needs to keep those big butts happy — and there's nothing that makes teenage boys happier than a plate of food of unlimited poundage.

Porchivina treated his entire starting offensive line to lunch Wednesday at his dad's deli in Petaluma. They ordered whatever they want. Chomp away. Thanks for the 301 yards, guys. It is a strategy that has been used for years, from the NFL all the way down to high school. It's a strategy that never goes out of fashion because the smart running back knows the guys in front of him do all the heavy lifting, usually in anonymity.

A little perk here and there works wonders.

"Thanks, Porch." Yes, he's heard a lot of that in the past week. The only question: Who felt more thankful, his quarterback or his blockers? John Porchivina would like to hear that same question next week.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.