Two years against Canyon View, Dixie middle linebacker Malakai Fakahua made his first start.
He had 12 tackles in a 55-30 win over the Falcons, but it wasn’t without a bit of trial and error for Fakahua, a sophomore at the time.
Fakahua recalled a bit of enlightenment given to him by Aisea Fakatoumafi, a linebacker coach with the team.
“He’s like, ‘You look lost out there,’ and I said, ‘I’m going to be honest, coach, I am lost,’ and so he says, ‘Well, if you read the (offensive) line, they’ll most likely lead you to the play every time,’” Fakahua said after a recent practice.
Two years later and Fakahua is the rock that Dixie’s defense is built around. He leads the team with 100 tackles and also leads with the four interceptions.
On a team where three of the defensive linemen stand at 6-foot-4, Fakahua is considered the centerpiece despite standing at 5-10.
At times, the opposing offensive linemen are too tall for Fakahua to see past, which is why he says he’s learned to watch where the other team’s guards are going.
The height doesn’t limit his effectiveness, as the statistics can attest, it just emphasizes the other facets of the game for him.
“As much as I wish I was tall, I could either focus on not being tall or get up and go grind and that’s what I chose to do is come out and grind,” he said.
That included getting up at 4:30 in the morning this past summer to go lift weights and do extra conditioning on top of the normal demands of summer football.
Dixie head coach Andy Stokes says there’s something special about Fakahua, in that the biggest games for Dixie, such as Friday’s 6 p.m. 3AA semifinal against Pine View, are also when Fakahua shines brightest.
“When we’re in the face of the worst adversity, he was the one who’s stepped up,” Stokes said. “You’re born with it, you either make big plays in a game or you don’t.”
One of Fakahua’s biggest plays of the season to date might be a fourth-quarter interception in the Flyers’ 26-25 win over Bear River in the 3AA quarterfinals Friday.
But in an example of Fakahua’s humility, he doesn’t take credit for the interception.
Defensive end Tyson Fisher hit Bears quarterback Kaygen Canfield as he threw, forcing a bad throw that fell right into Fakahua’s arms.
“(Fisher) better take credit for it,” Fakahua said after the Bear River win while standing next to Fisher.
A big difference for Fakahua this season is an increased leadership role.
Past players such as Jaden Harrison have been defensive leaders for Dixie, and Fakahua credits them with showing him how to be a leader.
Fakahua could be a silent leader if he wanted to: his work ethic alone could make for a lead-by-example case. But the leadership aspect wasn’t always smooth for the Flyers’ senior
“We kind of had a moment — some moments — in summer camp where I was just doing my own thing and then (the coaches) had to step in and say, ‘Hey you have to realize this is your senior season and (the younger players) going to follow what you do, so make sure you pick it up,” Fakahua said.
Fakahua’s best position is linebacker, but Stokes said Fakahua asks him every day, semi-jokingly and semi-seriously, if he could play running back.
And every time, Stokes says no. Though he concedes Fakahua would be a decent running back.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr on Twitter @PatrickCarr_ and on Facebook at Facebook.com/PatrickJosephCarr1/ or call him at (435) 231-3834.