From the moment Cadence Chase came to Fairhaven High his junior year, he felt he had something to prove both for himself and a struggling Blue Devils football program.
“I played with a chip on my shoulder,” Chase said. “I’ve always wanted to be great in high school.
“Coming from Dartmouth, I played a lot, but I didn’t touch the ball a lot. Fairhaven was a new school to me and I wanted to put my name out there, showing that I could play. It was proving myself. I tried everything I could.”
Chase, the 2021 Standard-Times Football Offensive Player of the Year, succeeded in his quest.
Beyond breaking the school’s single-season touchdown record and leading the defense in tackles and interceptions, Chase blocked for his teammates on offense, played long snapper and returned punts and kicks. He even did some kicking when it was necessary.
“I think back to how many times we needed a big play and he made them,” said Fairhaven head coach Derek Almeida. “I think he just had so many big plays throughout the year that impacted the game and were going to make the difference between if we won or lost and put us in a position to win. He made big plays at big moments.
“He gave himself an opportunity to do something special like he did. He went out and played as hard as he could and gave us an opportunity to be successful.”
Chase will go down as one of Fairhaven’s all-time best football players and the first to win the Otto Graham Award in 29 years. What he’s most proud of is helping the Blue Devils enjoy one of their best seasons in nearly two decades, winning the South Coast Conference Gold Championship, qualifying for the Div. 5 state playoffs and finishing with eight victories, including Fairhaven’s first over Dartmouth since 2011.
“The whole record is wicked cool. During the season it was cool to strive for that, but it was always more about the team,” said the 18-year-old Chase. “It’s my senior year and I wanted to win. Football you only have so many games in a season. I just wanted to win.”
Facing Old Rochester in a must-win game to make the playoffs, Chase’s opportunities on offense were limited with the Bulldogs keying on him so he took on the role as lead blocker for his teammates and then scored the winning touchdown and two-point conversion in overtime to lift the Blue Devils.
“That’s what it called for. That’s what we needed,” Almeida said. “We could have kept getting the ball to him. There weren't going to be a lot of big plays for him to make. They were really good on defense. The only way we were going to win that game was if we used him as a decoy and used him as a lead blocker. Whatever was needed, he was willing to do it.”
Chase and the Blue Devils had to overcome a 1-2 start by winning five straight games.
“We knew we weren’t a 1-2 team,” Chase said. “We had two tough losses that set us back. Coach said, ‘We could go two ways; go up from here and or stay here. We pushed hard in practice and won our next five or six games in a row. It was awesome going from win to win.”
Chase’s father, Bobby, played for the Blue Devils in the late 1990s so Cadence would hear stories of Fairhaven’s glory days when the stadium was packed with fans.
“In the 1980s and 1990s everyone went to the games,” he said. “We haven’t had that in a while. It’s crazy because it felt like nobody really went out their way to watch them (in recent years) because we weren’t really good, but we proved ourselves. A lot of people wanted to go see us play (this year) and it was a great feeling. It’s always just been really cool to put on the jersey to be on the team doing this, to change it around.”
After attending Dartmouth High his freshman and sophomore years through school choice, Chase enrolled in his hometown school and made it his mission to get the Blue Devils football program back on track.
“I think he really started to embrace changing the culture of the team,” Almeida said. “I think a lot of it came down to embracing an opportunity to play in our hometown and go down as a historic football player in this program. For him it was important to be able to play at the school where his parents went and to play in front of his parents and grandparents.
“He really enjoyed the fact that he was in Fairhaven and the team was better. The culture of everything we did. He brought a winning mentality and created a winning culture.”
Chase led by example and let his play on the field do all the talking. In addition to scoring a single-season school-record 20 touchdowns, he rushed for 1,054 yards and caught 10 passes for more than 200 yards. He also led the Blue Devils in tackles, had five interceptions, caused three fumbles and returned one fumble for a score.
“We expanded the playbook a little more (than Fall 2),” Chase said. “This year we added a lot of stuff. I got to run the ball inside more with traps and with counters. I feel like coach tried to get the ball in my hands more because we were a little inexperienced in the backfield.”
Almeida added, “He’s just such an explosive player. A lot of his touchdown runs came down to pretty execution on our part, but him making a cut back or breaking a tackle to make a good play. They also really came at key moments. It wasn’t padding stats against bad teams. He’s definitely set the bar here at Fairhaven as a football player.”
Chase admits he didn’t always like football.
“I played Fairhaven Pop Warner when I was six or seven years old and the first couple of practices, I hated it. I didn’t want to play,” he recalled. “We didn't have a younger program so I had to play up. I remember getting hit by Owen Cebula in practice and it wasn’t fun.
“I told my dad I wanted to quit and he said, ‘You’re going to have to tell your whole team,'” and I was more embarrassed to do that so I stuck with it.
“High school football is the best. It’s funny to look at now. It turned into a sport I fell in love with. Football is just different from any other sports I’ve played. It’s more of a family thing. When you’re on the football field, you’re playing for them. Coach Almeida stuck it in our heads you're playing for the guy next to you. It’s for each other and not for yourself. You need everyone on the same page and that’s why I loved it so much.”
Chase is hoping that this is the beginning of more success for the Blue Devils.
“I just want to make our program better and not just for this year or next year; but going forward,” he said. “That would be the best thing. I’m not focused on people talking about my individual statistics because it won’t matter a year from now. It will be much cooler for people to recognize me as a big part of the team moving the program forward.”
ALL ABOUT CADENCE CHASE
WHY HE WAS SELECTED: Chase had a knack for making big plays at big moments and was instrumental in turning Fairhaven’s football program around with his contributions on offense, defense and special teams as he became the first Blue Devil to win the coveted Otto Graham Award in 29.
KEY STATS: The South Coast Conference MVP rushed for 1,054 yards and finished the year as the area’s leading scorer with 20 touchdowns, Fairhaven's single-season school record, breaking the previous mark of 17 held by both Kross Negalha (2014) and Russell Pickup (1994). In addition to rushing for 17 TDs, he caught two scoring strikes and had a defensive touchdown. Chase also was strong on defense and led the Blue Devils in tackles, had five interceptions and caused three fumbles.
MVP MOMENT: With Chase making countless big plays over the course of the season, Fairhaven head coach Derek Almeida had a hard time narrowing it down to just one, but one that stood out for its significance was Chase scoring the winning touchdown and two-point conversion in overtime to lift the Blue Devils past Old Rochester to secure a playoff berth.
OLD ROCHESTER HEAD COACH BRYCE GUILBEAULT: “He’s just fast. Once he gets in the open field, he’s hard to catch and he runs tough.”
NOTES: Born in Wareham, Chase has lived in Fairhaven his entire life. He is the son of Bobby and Alyssa Chase. “They did so much for me,” Cadence said. “My dad coached me when I was younger. My mom and dad have never missed one game. It’s really impressive. They’ve always pushed me to be the best player I can be.” … Bobby played football and basketball and ran track at Fairhaven before playing rugby at Eckerd College while Alyssa played field hockey for the Blue Devils. “I’ve always looked up to my dad,” Chase said, adding that he’s also been inspired by his mother after her battle with stage four lymphoma 16 years ago. “That’s the strongest lady I’ve met in my life. When I’m struggling through a drill, I think of her.” … Chase has three younger sisters, Lola, Delaney and Sunny. … Chase is planning to study integrated marketing communications at Ole Miss and is going to try walking on to the football team there. “That’s the goal,” he said. “I’m working out with Nick Correia and it’s going well. We’re going to see. Hopefully it falls into place. That’s a dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to play college football.” … Chase said his best memory from the season was getting to play with his cousin, Westin, for the first three games before Westin suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4. “That was the biggest thing for me this year,” he said. “He’s my best friend.” … Chase praised the play of his entire offensive line, including left tackle Josh Mello. “That was my guy this year,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Fairhaven's Cadence Chase is Football Offensive Player of the Year