LA HABRA -- Since his days as a wide-eyed youth, dating to well before age five, Aaron Porter has been closely associated with La Habra football.
Years later, little has changed. The senior linebacker is still a fixture in the grand scheme, and has successfully emerged this season as one of the Southland's premier prospects at his position.
The Highlanders, naturally, have followed suit in terms of on-field success.
Porter & Co. head into Friday night's CIF-Southern Section semifinal playoff game against Lake Forest El Toro with plenty of momentum as a result. A victory, in fact, is the only thing separating the Highlanders from an appearance in the Southwest Division championship game and the opportunity to secure a rather remarkable fifth consecutive section title.
“What can I say about Aaron Porter, tell me, how much time do you have? There is plenty to talk about with him, he is a special kid,'' La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said. “He means everything to this team and school. Aaron is a leader through and through.''
To gain a better understanding of where Porter, a potential UCLA commit, is heading, perhaps it is best to take a quick look back at his Highlanders roots.
His father, Tony Porter, took a position on the coaching staff at La Habra close to 14 years ago, right around the time Mazzotta was hired. Not surprisingly, son Aaron tagged along for the ride while Dad attended to his defensive coordinator responsibilities.
“We always knew Aaron would end up at La Habra, that's all he knew growing up,'' Tony Porter said. “I like to think that I have seen a lot of good players come and go over the years. Aaron is a student of the game, so I'm sure he remembers all those guys too.''
Porter is one of those guys now. He has played four years of varsity ball for the Highlanders, the last three as a starter at linebacker.
This time around, Porter has been seemingly unstoppable for La Habra (9-3 overall), which recently made its debut in the ESPNLosAngeles.com Top 25 rankings at No. 23. He has 149 tackles, 20 stops for losses behind the line of scrimmage. He also has 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions. In addition, because of a rash of injuries recently, Porter also has been contributing at running back, gaining 509 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns.
“There is a lot of tradition here at La Habra,'' Aaron Porter said. “I've been around some great coaches. I have been around some of the great players, guys who have gone onto college and the NFL. I'm just trying to do my part and keep the history going strong.
“The groundwork was there for me, I have learned a lot. I would like to be remembered as one of the better players here. That's why I work so hard. It would be nice to set a good example for the next wave of Highlanders players, the future generations to come.''
The blueprint has been laid out by Porter. Those who attempt to follow in his footsteps would be wise to stick to the game plan that has worked out well for him.
ESPN Recruiting ranks Porter as the No. 8 prospect in the greater Los Angeles area and No. 15 overall in California. No local player at his position is held in higher regard than the 6-foot-1 and 230-pounder, although Downey's Jabari Ruffin is no slouch.
“Porter is a good looking linebacker prospect with the strength and toughness you like to see at the position,'' said Billy Tucker, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN. “He shows some versatility lining up both on and off the line of scrimmage. He looks to have better short-range tools on film and the physicality you look for in a college middle linebacker.
“Porter possesses the edge quickness and length that open your eyes as a potential outside linebacker and could have valued positional flexibility if he continues to grow and add bulk. The one area he will be tested early is in coverage and as an overall space defender.''
Porter gave an oral commitment to UCLA in early July, but coach Rick Neuheisel was fired earlier this week leaving that pledge up in the air. Porter figures to have plenty of options.
Oregon and USC are the only Pac-12 Conference schools that have offered a scholarship. Boise State and Iowa State, along with San Diego State, are among the many others interested. Oklahoma could also be a player. The Sooners have talked to Porter in recent weeks.
“I'm keeping my options open right now,'' Porter said.
In the meantime, he appears focused on the task at hand.
The Highlanders have won six section titles since 2002, that's six of the last eight overall. Moreover, they are in the midst of a four-peat, having won back-to-back Southeast Division championships and two straight since joining the Southwest Division.
Porter has spearheaded the charge the last three times.
“Aaron's work ethic and the leadership he has provided while dominating the last four years has been second to none,'' Mazzotta said. “He has carried on the Highlanders tradition. Winning one more title would be a storybook way to end things here with us.''
Adding another ring to the collection would be a fitting way to culminate Porter's career, there is no doubt about that fact. The local kid, a home-grown talent, making good on some of his potential and cementing his name as a La Habra legend in the process.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.