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By Damin Esper
Special to Chabot Athletics
Chayce Akaka has the tweet pinned. The play is from early in the 2018 Chabot College football season. It's a zone read call and as both the Shasta defensive end and a blitzer crash to the inside, Akaka pulls the ball from the mesh point with running back Ponove Veimau and takes off to the left sideline.
As he turns the corner, outrunning one pursuer, Akaka comes upon two teammates blocking three opponents. Akaka hops to his right, starts to run diagonally across the field, hesitates once, then goes full speed through the secondary on a line to the pylon on the right side of the end zone. At the end, it was a 56-yard run where the speedy quarterback may have covered twice as much ground at Gladiator Stadium.
The play, alas, didn't count. A holding penalty wiped it out. But you can understand why Akaka has it pinned.
Akaka was a revelation last year for Chabot. Originally recruited by the school, he then planned to play baseball at Yavapai College in Arizona. Then, things didn't work out at Yavapai and Akaka showed up in Hayward. In August. On the eve of the football season.
"Freshmen usually come in in early June or July," Gladiators coach Eric Fanene said. "We install in the classroom our schemes and everything. We had a sophomore (Vondell Pitcher) who was coming back."
But the coaching staff could see that Akaka was special.
"You could tell he was a dude," Fanene said. "We had a plan going into game one. We have to give him a series. We thought maybe the third or fourth series of the game. We put him in that series, and he never came out."
Akaka (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) led Chabot to a 27-7 win that night. The Gladiators ended up 5-5 on the year with Akaka throwing for 1,891 yards while completing 141 of 260 passes with 19 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He also rushed for 549 yards on 109 carries (5.0 average) and seven touchdowns.
"He's a great kid," Fanene said. "You can't teach the running skills that he has. He runs like a running back, he's very elusive. He has a rocket arm. We only had two receivers who could catch him because he throws fastballs all the time."
Said Akaka, "I did show up late. They took a risk with me, but I think it was a good risk."
Yup. So now, as Chabot prepares to open the 2019 season (Sept. 7 at Shasta), the question is what more can Akaka do?
"Right now, I'm trying to work on my pocket presence," Akaka said. "Learning how to step up more. Hanging in there and trusting my O-linemen. It's being patient, let everything develop. Don't focus on the line but focus on the receivers more.
"When I came from high school, I didn't have a coach who taught me how to read a defense. How to look at a defense, how to read it."
It's not surprising that Akaka got by on his athletic talents. He has a lot of talent. He was named the Maui News Maui Interscholastic League Boy Athlete of the Year for 2017-18 after starring on the football, basketball and baseball teams at Baldwin High School-Wailuku.
The question of baseball or football was a tough one. Akaka hit .478 (22-for-46) as a senior and even retired the final batter on a double play in the Wally Yonamine Foundation Division 1 Baseball State Championship game, which Baldwin won over Waiakea, 14-4. He was also drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 16th round of the 2018 MLB draft.