Benning Potoa’e and Chico McClatcher come from different worlds, travel distinct paths — but move to the same drumbeat.
Elite is elite in high school football, no matter what the size of the performer is. Potoa’e (6-foot-4, 265 pounds), a Lakes High School defensive end, is a chiseled tower of muscle, ready to shed any blocker — or two — on his way to the quarterback.
And while much smaller — McClatcher is 5-9, 175 — the Federal Way High School tailback isn’t less dangerous. Led by remarkably swiveling hips and swift-moving feet, he makes moves on the field that defy gravity — and dumbfound tacklers.
When it is all said and done, Brandon Huffman, a national recruiting expert for Scout.com and FoxSports, says both should safely slot as top-five signees from the state of Washington.
“With Chico, it is his incredible shiftiness, and quickness more than his top-end speed. He presents a lot of problems for a secondary because he can make a cut on a dime and go,” Huffman said. “And with Benning, it is his freaky athleticism for how big he is. He could be a traditional 4-3 (defensive) end, a 3-4 outside linebacker or be used as a 3-technique type inside.”
Elite also joined elite a couple weeks ago in The News Tribune’s photo studio. While Potoa’e and McClatcher don’t share any sort of past together, they first met a few years back in the most predictable of settings — at a University of Washington game.
As soon as they saw each other, they hugged — just like brothers in the same sort of fraternity do.
In this case, two of the best in the state of Washington.
POTOA’E: DISCIPLINE AND RESPECT
Potoae’s can recall the day he first saw the flier for Little Lancers’ youth football circulating around his elementary school.
He wanted no part of it.
But his older brother, Sione — a former Lakes and UW standout — convinced him otherwise.
“I took it and threw it away,” Potoa’e said. “But my brother came up to me and said, ‘Let’s do tryouts.’ So we went, did some of the drills and I ended up liking it. Then I got in pads, and I started hitting people. It released some anger. It felt good.”
Sensing his two sons had a love for football, Aleki Potoa’e — also a giant of a man, and a first sergeant in the U.S. Army — began assembling a personal training jungle gym.
“There is a field down the street from our house (at Fort Lewis),” Potoa’e said. “He’d bring a long a lot of football materials like Sparq (resistance bands), ladders, hurdles, parachutes, tires and hammers that he got from his work.
“His soldiers also gave him a gym set — a bench (press) rack and dumb-bells. He threw it in the garage and told us to use it wisely.”
Those workouts were not voluntary, Potoa’e said.
“He was hard on us. He woke us up early,” Potoa’e said. “It is not an ask-if-you-want-to-go workout. It is a you-will-go workout.
“Offseasons were the worst. During the season, he knew we had practices and games, so he wanted to save us. But in the offseason, he tore us apart.”
Mom, Sherry, has always been there to save the day — with 12 plates of food.
“She had to with eight people in the house,” Lakes coach Dave Miller said. “And those two boys, they’re in our top-10 in the record books for eating.”
Sione Potoa’e, whose career at UW ended last season, is a shorter, thicker body type. He was a natural defensive tackle.
Benning Potoa’e is taller, leaner and with longer levers — a natural pass rusher. His goal as a senior is to register 20-plus sacks, 30-plus backfield tackles — and more than 70 tackles overall.
“His motor is running really hot right now,” Miller said. “He has matured each year for me, and really thrives in 1-on-1 competitions. This summer, he has been a man among boys.”
McCLATCHER: POETRY IN MOTION
A long time ago, roaming the hallways at Foss High School, was an upstart, dazzling guard on the basketball team.
His name? Chico McClatcher.
This next-generation McClatcher has a lot of the same quickness and athleticism, but is set on showcasing it in a different sport.
“I played a bunch of sports — basketball, soccer, baseball. In fact, soccer was the first sport I played,” the Eagles’ senior said. “But in my fourth-grade year, I started watching (NFL tailback) Reggie Bush and thought, ‘Wow, that could be me in time, with training and effort.’ ”
That time is now.
Last season, one that saw Federal Way advance to the Class 4A state semifinals, McClatcher amassed 2,500 all-purpose yards and 26 touchdowns.
He scored a touchdown running the ball, catching a pass, on an interception, on a fumble recovery and on special teams. Heck, he even threw for a score.
His favorite touchdown? The last one in the Eagles’ shocking 26-20 victory over defending 4A champion Skyline in the first round of the state playoffs.
“It was from (67) yards out,” McClatcher said. “The crowd there was so alive. If you look on YouTube, you can see during that play, our whole sideline was pumped up and yelling. That was a fun game.”
With quarterback Keenan Curran now off to the Air Force Academy, the Federal Way offense is younger. McClatcher is easily the most veteran piece, and he is expected to move out to slot and outside receiver, too.
The biggest issue is how do the Eagles replace Curran’s leadership. Coach John Meagher said that won’t automatically fall on his standout running back’s shoulders.
“First of all, he is shy. He does not like to talk. When we named him a team captain, he was apprehensive about that,” Meagher said. “He is terrified to speak in front of groups. I mean, I don’t want to square-peg a kid but it is an area he needs to get better at.”
McClatcher says he is a show-first, talk-second contributor by nature.
“I have to expand my personality a bit,” McClatcher said. “Our team is so young, and not a lot of people are vocal, so it will have to be me, Jared Pulu and David Tiumalu doing that.”
Making electrifying big plays won’t be so challenging. The teenager who goes by the nickname “Blue Mamba” would easily take a repeat of last season’s numbers — and two more wins.
“I love it — (Blue Mamba) is not a bad name to have,” McClatcher said. “But still, my name on the field is Chico McClatcher. I want the announcer not to say Blue Mamba, but Chico McClatcher.”
THE NEWS TRIBUNE’s 2014 PRESEASON ALL-STATE FOOTBALL TEAM
|QB||Brett Rypien||Shadle Park||6-2||185||Sr.|
|Boise State commit could pass 2012 Skyline graduate Max Browne for most career passing yards in state history (12,953).|
|Committed to UW after rushing for more than 2,000 yards in junior campaign.|
|Ran for almost 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns leading Freeman to 1A state title and 14-0 record.|
|WSU commit averaged 15.2 yards per carry and scored 21 touchdowns.|
|Caught 54 passes for 1,206 yards and 16 TDs — nine coming in a stretch of three postseason games.|
|WR||Justice Murphy||Evergreenof Vancouver||6-2||190||Sr.|
|Numbers weren’t impressive (31 catches, 403 yards), but Pac-12-caliber speed and athleticism are.|
|Tough to game plan for with combination of soft hands, speed and strength.|
|Bruising anchor at left tackle committed to UW.|
|OL||Shane Lemieux||West Valley||6-6||300||285|
|Oregon commit has solid technique; especially excels in Rams’ run game.|
|Considered state’s top offensive line recruit in deep 2015 class.|
|Received an offer from UW early last season — as a freshman.|
|AP||Chico McClatcher||Federal Way||5-9||175||Sr.|
|Expect the Eagles to give him the ball however/whenever they can.|
|Columbia Basin Big Nine kicker of the year can convert from more than 40 yards out.|
|DL||Cody Baker||Eastside Catholic||6-4||260||Sr.|
|Montana commit’s stout frame and strong hands allow him to dominate on both sides of the trenches.|
|Looking at 17 NCAA Division I offers as he gears for fourth year as varsity starter.|
|DL||Calvin Throckmorton||Newportof Bellevue||6-4||280||Sr.|
|Interior lineman committed to Oregon. Named 4A KingCo lineman of the year last season.|
|Explodes toward ball carriers. Looking at Ivy League offers among others.|
|Returning AP first-team All-State linebacker tormented offenses last season.|
|Returning AP 2A All-State Player of the Year looks to lead Lions to four-peat.|
|Cousin of Pasco-born former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.|
|Might not be Myles Jack (UCLA) or Budda Baker (UW) yet, but could be Wolverines’ next big talent.|
|Hard-hitting safety has eight interceptions and 104 tackles as a two-year starter.|
|Started great before going down in the third game with season-ending knee injury.|
|Reigning 4A King-Co Crest defensive MVP … and offensive.|
|DB||Brandon Wellington||Eastside Catholic||6-0||220||Jr.|
|Four-star recruit committed to UW over offers from Colorado, Oregon State and WSU.|
|AP 4A second-team punter last season. Also played for the Union rugby team.|