High school football: Marcus Poe rewrites his script at Cloverdale

  • Cloverdale's Marcus Poe fights for extra yardage against St. Helena defenders in their game Sept. 25. (Jeremy Portje / The The Press Democrat)

CLOVERDALE — Certain things were all but set in stone for the Cloverdale football team as it entered the 2015 season. Dynamic running back Luke Bernardi would gobble up most of the yardage, returning All-NCL I lineman Travis Kitowski would be the cornerstone of the front wall and the Eagles would be in the thick of a tough league race.

Cloverdale had an X factor, though: a kid who had played only two seasons of organized football, one in eighth grade and another on the JV level as a sophomore, and hadn’t done a lot of magical things on the field.

And yet coach Chad Prieskorn and his staff had reason to expect big things from senior Marcus Poe. After all, the kid is nearly 6-foot-6. He’s fast. He’s agile. He has good hands. He’s willing to learn. And he likes to hit.

“You don’t get guys like that at the D5 level in Cloverdale,” Prieskorn said. “All the coaches were drooling over him as soon as we saw him come out.”

Sure enough, Poe has been cutting a wide swath through small-school football this fall. He has 16 catches for 492 yards and seven touchdowns through the 4-1 Eagles’ first five games, numbers that don’t accurately reflect his impact.

“This would be a typically good offensive team in the I(-formation) offense we like to run,” Prieskorn said. “With Marcus, it takes us to another level. I mean, it’s a whole other dimension that nobody can deal with.”

It has been a shocking varsity debut for Poe, who is better known as the star of the Cloverdale basketball team. He and hoops teammate John McMillan, who has since graduated, were NCL I co-MVPs last year. Poe is an active center who likes to score around the rim.

On the gridiron, it has taken him much longer to figure out exactly what he is. Poe always liked football growing up in east Concord, but he wasn’t nearly as imposing then and his parents never wanted him to play. Finally, in eighth grade, he begged his mom until she consented. But when his coach stuck him at center, the experience was sort of a disaster.

“I was really skinny for that position,” Poe said.

He didn’t give up on the sport, though. And when the family moved to Cloverdale before his sophomore year, Poe, who had experienced a major growth spurt as a freshman, went out for the junior varsity team. Prieskorn was coaching JVs then, and he remembers a willing worker with vast potential but little instinct for the game. They tried Poe at wide receiver, at defensive end, at fullback, even at offensive tackle.

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