Konawaena senior Chase Takaki wrapped up his high school football career with a third consecutive Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II title and a multitude of postseason honors. While he has not decided where he will play college football, he knows he has at least one more game left to play — the 26th annual Down Under Bowl on Australia’s Gold Coast in June.
“I was stoked when I got the letter saying I was selected,” Takaki said. “Knowing it’s a big bowl game, I’d expect that coaches will be up there. I really want to represent well and show out.”
The game pits some of the top players from across the United States against the best players across Australia in an effort to grow the sport, known in Australia as “gridiron.”
Takaki will be representing Hawaii at the event, and Konawaena head coach Cliff Walters thinks his former two-way star is a great ambassador for the Big Island.
“His whole season was a highlight reel,” Walters said. “His desire to win has brought him a long way. We only had a handful of seniors this season and he definitely served as a leader for our team.”
According to its website, Down Under Sports was founded in 1989 and strives “ … to use the common language of sports to bridge the continents.”
Previous standouts of the Down Under Bowl include former NFL players Jake Plummer, Ahman Green and Rob Morris, as well as many Division I college players.
Takaki, who was an All-BIIF selection at cornerback and wide receiver this season, finished his senior campaign with 58 receptions for 1,089 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense and four interceptions on defense.
Gridiron glory is still a fairly new feeling for Takaki, who had a long road full of hurdles before becoming a shutdown corner and big play receiver.
“I did not play football until my freshman year,” Takaki said. “When I was younger I could not make weight and then when I got to middle school I injured my knee pretty bad. I had to lay off the sports.”
Takaki battled through the injury and put in work away from the field. Once he hit his stride, there was no stopping Takaki, who gained accolades for playing not only on both sides of the football team but also in two sports. Takaki is also a key member of Konawaena’s state-contending basketball team.
Despite the praise he has received, Takaki remains humble and knows individual success only comes with a solid, supportive environment.
“Team success has been the key,” Takaki said. “It’s good motivation to have a good team behind me, pushing me. I’ve had that. We did the job. We had fun and accomplished the goal. Not much more I could have asked for.”
The Down Under Bowl invitation is another feather in his already packed cap. The trip will also serve as a cross-cultural experience for Takaki.
“It is going to be an adventure,” Takaki said. “I don’t have any family that has been up there, so I don’t know what it will be like.”
Takaki’s former head coach agrees that while the experience will be an opportunity to showcase Takaki’s impressive skills set for coaches at the next level, it can also serve as an opportunity to broaden horizons.
“I think it is a good thing to put on your resume and an exciting thing for him to go do,” Walters said. “It’s more of an opportunity than just another notch on your belt. To travel to another country and get to play football is a rare experience.”
Takaki is raising funds and needs to hit $4,400 to make the trip a reality. He is selling Down Under Bowl shirts and taking donations. Each purchase or donation earns a ticket into a drawing to win an all-inclusive trip for two to Australia or a five-day cruise.
“A big thank-you to the community for the support so far and sticking by Konawaena’s side all season,” Takaki said.
Interested donors can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit downundersports.com for more information.