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.
He liked the game — once he got used to the hitting — but frequently found himself frustrated.
“I didn’t see that much success,” Poe said. “I would get mad if I didn’t get the ball. I was tall. I was taller than everybody else and I didn’t understand why they weren’t passing it to me. But now I understand. You need to run to gain yards.”
Any momentum Poe might have gathered that year soon came to a crashing halt. As a sophomore, he saw his grades plummet during the fall and was academically ineligible for basketball in the winter. He was crushed. The next year, Poe was determined to bring up his GPA. That meant giving up football as a junior.
Marcus Poe is a star for Cloverdale in both basketball and football. Here’s a look at his stats in both sports:
2015 season totals (5 games)
16 receptions, 492 yards, seven touchdowns
Notable: Poe, who plays wide receiver and defensive end, also leads the team in tackles for loss (eight).
BASKETBALL 2014 season averages
15.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks
Notable: Poe, a 6-foot-6 center, also led the team in field-goal percentage at 59 percent.