By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS – Perhaps the biggest shame about Muskegon Heights’ loss to Orchard View last weekend is that the Tigers were eliminated from state football playoff contention.

That means the rest of the state won’t get to witness Ontario Porchia’s passing skills.

Ontario Porche. Photo/Joe Lane

Ontario Porche. Photo/Joe Lane

Porchia, a senior quarterback, has been lighting up the scoreboard, and probably the school record book, with his eye-opening passing accomplishments this season.

To date he has completed 135 of 257 throws for 2,178 yards with 19 touchdowns.

In recent weeks he has thrown for totals of 298, 319, 315 and a whopping 408 yards.

He’s completed some crucial passes in key moments, like the 35-yard scoring toss to teammate Pherrius Flowers that secured the Tigers’ first victory of the season against Brethren.

Last Friday Porchia cooled off a bit, throwing for a more human-like 154 yards.

He has one final chance to add to those numbers in his last game Friday when Muskegon Heights hosts Melvindale Academy for Business and Technology.

“He’s been a little bit hot the last few games, even in some of the games we’ve lost,” said Muskegon Heights Coach Jimmy Purnell, who added that school officials have been researching all-time Muskegon Heights passing records, to see how close Porchia is to breaking them.

“He didn’t even play the first game this year because he was out of town,” Purnell said. “In the second game he started playing in the second quarter and still had 349 yards.

“One good thing for him is he has big hands and can grip the ball really good. I kind of wish he was a junior. There’s no telling what kind of records he could have.””

The interesting part is that Porchia did not grow up playing quarterback.

He was a wide receiver through middle school, and only got the chance to play quarterback in junior varsity, after the coaches accidently noticed his throwing abilities.

Ontario Porche drops back to pass during the Tigers' game against Orchard View on Oct. 17. Photo/Joe Lane

Ontario Porche drops back to pass during the Tigers’ game against Orchard View on Oct. 17. Photo/Joe Lane

He became the starting varsity quarterback midway through his junior season, after the previous starter was injured.

“His sophomore year on JV, he went out for a pass and the quarterback overthrew him,” Purnell said. “Most kids just run the ball back in after an incomplete pass, but Ontario threw it back it.

“He threw it like 65 yards standing still. The ball went over our heads and the head coach at the time said ‘Come here.’ After that we just had to build his confidence and work on his play calling, things like that.”

Porchia is also unusual for a standout quarterback, because football is definitely not his favorite sport. He plays varsity basketball in the winter and prefers that to the gridiron.

“I just had to do it for the team,” Porchia said about playing quarterback. “Basketball is really my sport.”

Porchia, who seems a little embarrassed by all the attention he’s been receiving, is quick to note that he’s bound to have a lot of throwing yards, because the Tiger offense is heavily focused on passing.

He also says he has very good wide receivers and slot receivers to throw to every week.

“Pherrius Flowers is a dominating receiver,” Porchia said. “He’ll go get it anywhere.”

Porchia’s job can be precarious at times, because having four receivers means he has fewer blockers holding back the defensive rush when he’s trying to throw.

As a result he has 17 interceptions, a lot of rushing yards from ducking out of the pocket and scrambling, and his share of sacks.

“I stand back a couple of yards further so I have more time to look over things,” Porchia said. “You have to get rid of the ball quickly. You can see (defenders) coming, and you try to avoid them if you can. Most of the time I can scramble until a receiver comes open.”