Cal Lee was in a joking mood when told that he has never repeated for a state championship, and so he good-naturedly laughed it off.
Technically, it’s true. The Saint Louis football coach won 14 Prep Bowl championships, including 13 in a row. He also has won two state championships, but those are 17 years apart. He earned the first one in the inaugural state championship season of 1999 and again in 2016.
Voters have picked the Crusaders to repeat as the No. 1 team in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason top 10.
Lee is starting his 25th season as the Crusaders’ coach and fourth season in his third stint with the program that began in 2014. He was also the head coach in 1971 and again from 1982 through 2001, and has a 263-39-5 overall record. He was not with the school from 2002 through 2013.
Lee is always striving to improve and that’s the task at hand as Saint Louis tries to add a second straight top-tier state title this fall. After a scrimmage against Campbell last week, he said, “We played well. We can get better, though.”
One of his favorite things to say is that his teams have never played a perfect game and that he’s still looking for that.
“People are going to play us hard, so we have to practice harder,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We gotta practice. It’s not like we’re playing weak opponents. You don’t get better thinking like that. I don’t care who we play. I don’t care if we play Sacred Hearts (Saint Louis’ neighbor all-girls school in Kaimuki).”
With the graduation of Tua Tagovailoa, who is a freshman on the Alabama roster, senior Chevan Cordeiro takes the reins at quarterback. By most accounts, the Crusaders’ receiver corps has improved over a year ago. Lee says that he has 15 receivers and all are capable.
Some heavy hitters like Faatui Tuitele and Noa Purcell lead a veteran Saint Louis defense that will be without standout linebacker Dylan Toilolo, who transferred to Kapolei.
Saint Louis is going for a third straight ILH championship.
“We still gotta beat Punahou and Kamehameha and win the ILH championship first,” Cordeiro said. “And then after that, our mind is going to be on the state championship.”
Rival coaches Kale Ane of Punahou and Darren Johnson of Campbell have said without hesitation: “Saint Louis is the best team in the state right now.”
To read our Saint Louis preview that ran in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, click here.