Pro tip: Don’t tell Doreion Akins he can’t do something.
The Hiram Johnson quarterback was at a college fair Friday when he ran into an old friend, McClatchy running back Jaydale Dixon. As friends do, a little smack was talked about the game coming later that day.
“He told me, ‘You can’t hit me,’ ” Akins said.
With McClatchy trying to mount a late rally, Dixon caught an outlet pass and was picking his way through the defense toward the Johnson end zone when Akins hammered him at the 9-yard line, effectively ending the threat.
Dixon popped up and the two friends slapped their hands together. You had to respect the effort.
Akins did a little of everything in Johnson’s 24-14 win. The senior intercepted two passes, including one returned 55 yards for a touchdown. He also quarterbacked the offense, as he has the past few weeks while filling in for Abreheim Carter, who’s injured.
Akins has run for more than 100 yards twice in his three starts, including 150 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Pioneer. But against McClatchy, it was his defense that turned heads.
“I never played safety before in my life,” Akins said. “I guess that’s my new position. … Coach told me after the game.”
With just 22 players suiting up, Johnson is scrambling for answers. Coach Alex Gomes-Coelho said he’d rather let his offense air out the ball. But when Carter went down, Gomes-Coelho switched to running the old wing-T offense.
Gomes-Coelho is in his third season as coach with continued progress. The Warriors (2-2) are already halfway to last season’s victory total of four, and that came after an 0-10 showing in 2017. A powerhouse program in decades past, Johnson has battled low roster numbers and general program apathy. The last winning season was in 2002.
Akins would like a hand in changing that. The Warriors’ former running back, leads a tightly bunched running attack. When he takes it for himself, the 200-pound senior is a load for defenders to bring down.
“He’s a strong runner, a good runner, and he’s also a smart kid. Within a week he went from playing A back to being able to run our offense,” Gomes-Coelho said.
The offense is deceivingly simple. Johnson is going to run the ball. Six different Warriors carried the ball at least once against McClatchy. The question is always who is getting the ball.
With Johnson trailing 14-8 early in the third quarter, it was Damond Tillman who took a handoff and sprinted through a huge gap in the right side of the line for 71 yards, a touchdown and a 16-14 lead. Isaac Walker had a few tough runs for Johnson and Floyd Kennedy chipped in as well.
It’s Akin’s job to read the linebackers and decide who’s getting the ball. When he keeps it, Akins plows into defenders rather than looking for a way around them.
“For my team, I have to be uplifted in order to lift them up,” Akins said. “When they see me running hard out there, they want to play hard.”
Defense. Offense. Leadership. Does he drive the team bus to away games? Akins laughed: “Naaaah.”
Just don’t tell him he can’t do it.