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Feature on Chabot quarterback Chayce Akaka

Feature on Chabot quarterback Chayce Akaka
Special to Chabot Athletics
By Mike Wood
HAYWARD -- You can't blame Chayce Akaka if he finds Hayward nights to be a little cold.
You see, Chabot's rising star quarterback has spent most of his young life in Maui, so the change from Hawaii to Hayward is more abrupt than the different letters following the H-A. Growing up in Paradise has its spoils.
But he's proved to be a quick study on the Mainland and is making great strides under center for the Gladiators, who at 5-2 have posted their most wins since their NorCal playoff season in 2015, when they were 9-3. Akaka is fifth in the state in touchdown passes (18) and 11th in completion percentage (61.1 %) for Chabot, ranked this week No. 15 in the state.
Akaka is putting a chill into opposing defenses, while trying to adjust to life away from beaches and endless sunshine.
"I like it here," Akaka said. "I am trying to enjoy it. Sometimes I can't sleep, when it gets too cold."
Akaka keeps up by phone with his two brothers and his dad, as this is his first time away from Maui. Being a bit homesick is understandable, but he is enjoying this new adventure.
"As it is said, there is no place like home," Akaka said after a recent practice. "I will always be an island boy."
In high school at Baldwin High School in Wailuku, Akaka starred in all three of the major sports. He was named the The Maui News MIL Boy Athlete of the Year in June. He once planned to attend Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona, known for baseball. But some paperwork issues got in the way, he said, and he ended up moving to the Bay Area and Chabot in August, and found he had a host of Hawaiian friends there.
Right now, football is his first love, followed by basketball and baseball.
Danny Calcagno, Chabot's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach -- and previously the program's longtime head coach -- worked with Akaka to get him ready to play at the community college level in quick time.
"We had another quarterback start the first game because we didn't think Chayce was ready," Chabot head coach Eric Fanene said. "We had a package for him ready. He's very coachable. He is still learning every week. He was used to running around, but now he has learned a little pocket presence."
"Coach Cal was really good in getting me ready," Akaka said. "He got me up to speed. The game is a lot faster than in high school. Coach Cal has taught me a lot of things, what coverages to read, how to read types of defenses."
Week by week, progress is notable.
"He is progressing every week, especially considering he was coming in so late," Calcagno said. "He was behind from a mechanical standpoint. Athleticism has gotten him by. It is going to be fun to see him develop and to see what he can do when he comes back as a sophomore."
Akaka can run with the ball, with 395 yards and another five touchdowns on the ground. Right now, those athletic skills from being a three-sport standout are setting him apart.
"His athleticism, no doubt," Fanene said. "Teams have to prepare for the pass and his legs and how he can run the ball. He's a great kid; he's a competitor and he doesn't like failing at all. It's a pleasure to have someone like that on the team."
That desire to win was demonstrated in the Gladiators coming back from an early 27-7 deficit to tie Santa Rosa, which prevailed in overtime 47-40. Akaka threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns.
Calcagno said Akaka is the best running quarterback the school has had since Brandyn Eckhart in 2011-12.
"He is really fun to coach; he wants to be good and is like a sponge soaking up details," Calcagno said. "Defenses are going to be trying to stop him with the run, but he has a good instinctive sense out there."
Akaka isn't the only surprising offensive contributor. Ponove Veimau, who started out as the Gladiators' fourth-string running back, has turned into a workhorse back, his 473 rushing yards ranking fourth in the Bay 6 Conference. He is tied for third in the conference with six rushing TDs.
Akaka plans to study business and aspires to gain a Div. 1 or 2 full-ride scholarship. He has his inspirations.
"Oregon is my favorite school, because Marcus Mariota went there, and he is an island boy, too," Akaka said. Plus, he enjoys the Ducks' spread offense.
Akaka and his teammates know they face the meat of their schedule for the finish of the regular season. It starts with a road game on Oct. 27 at the seventh-ranked team in the state, City College of San Francisco, then their final home game on Nov. 3 against No. 6 College of San Mateo, and then a big closer Nov. 9 at rival Laney, tied for ninth in the state.
"It's a grinder," Fanene said. "It is what we've been looking from the start, and we knew we would have to win as much as we could in the beginning."

The Gladiators would like to get Traveon Auzenne, one of Akaka's top targets, back during the stretch run from a knee injury. Yet in the Santa Rosa game, Da'Juan Johnson took charge with 190 yards on 13 catches and two TDs.
A good share of the credit for the Gladiators' rise this season goes to its defense, which held Shasta and Diablo Valley each to one touchdown and shut out San Joaquin Delta, the first time Chabot has held an opponent scoreless in at least 15 years.
Toughness matters, and so does resiliency. Defensive back Titus Sullivan is one example, making a big impact a year after a brutal torn Achilles injury ended his season after the second week against DVC. Once getting the green light, Sullivan wasted no time in working toward his amazing comeback.
"It was one of the most gruesome injuries," Fanene said. "It was completely ripped. The doctors and trainers are amazed at his recovery. He's a hard-working guy and is like a quarterback on our defense. He has a bright future to be a coach if playing football doesn't work out."
Then there are the Grey brothers, Le-Anthony and Lando, Samoans who grew up in Hawaii. Neither lets injuries get in the way.
Le-Anthony, who has been a stalwart run-stopper at linebacker, returned this year after breaking his leg in the 2017 season opener. He recovered, though he missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Brother Lando came along this year, and the defensive lineman been playing with a cast on a broken arm. "That kid is a stud," Fanene said.