Rare is the moment when a field general, the winningest football coach in Hawaii high school history, speaks of love.
But when Cal Lee does this, it speaks volumes. The Saint Louis head coach saw his team stifle No. 4 Punahou in the first half, building a 24-0 lead en route to a 40-20 victory over the Buffanblu on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
The victory on homecoming and senior night sealed a spot in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship game for No. 1 Saint Louis (7-0, 4-0 ILH). Doing it with another fantastic effort defensively made it that much more satisfying for Lee, the former high school and college linebacker.
Noa Purcell, Isaiah Feary, Wes Tufaga, Kamo‘i Latu, and on and on. (Note: defensive tackle Faatui Tuitele and safety Kai Kaneshiro did not play.) The depth and balance of the Saint Louis defense gave Punahou few opportunities to seize momentum. Jordan Botelho, a sophomore linebacker, was in on three of the Crusaders’ five sacks. He also forced a fumble during Punahou’s game-opening series that led to his team’s first touchdown.
“It’s just being prepared, watching film, going out there and trying to give our all,” Botelho said. “On Saturdays, we watch film and that helps us get better. We watch every snap. It’s about making the best of every opportunity.”
When Punahou started the game with sophomore Hugh Brady at QB, he was a fairly unknown quantity to most of the Crusaders. Botelho, however, had a good feel for the skilled passer.
“He played JV last year, so I kind of knew him,” said Botelho, who was on the Saint Louis JV a year ago.
Until this year, freshmen weren’t allow to play varsity football.
“He’s a good athlete and can throw and run. Containing the quarterback, that’s our (outside linebackers) responsibility,” Botelho said.
Brady finished 10-for-28 with 205 passing yards, two TDs and one pick. He finished strong, however, facing Saint Louis’ starting defense from start to finish. He missed just a few plays when regular starter Stephen Barber (elbow) and backup Nui Adolpho made brief appearances. Barber left after being sacked, suffering a sore neck.
“He gained a confidence boost tonight,” Punahou offensive coordinator Teetai Ane said of Brady, who completed six of his final 12 pass attempts for 165 yards.
Lee was perhaps happier than he has ever been this season about his defensive unit. On a defense of physical, swarming stoppers, Botelho was just about everywhere at the right time to make big plays.
“I love him. I love him because he listens, a person who listens and does what you tell him, he’s eager to learn, a lot of enthusiasm, he loves the game. You’ve got to love him,” Lee said.
Lee was in a rare, almost jovial mood post-game, maybe fueled in large part by the strong turnout for Crusader seniors. Brady managed to finish strong with two TD passes in a 10-for-28 debut against the nationally-ranked Crusaders.
Chevan Cordeiro passed for two TDs and ran for two more, grateful to see his team remain unbeaten in a brutal ILH football landscape.
“Kamehameha, Punahou, they’re all good. To play them twice, that’s nuts. They get to learn from their mistakes and get better. It’s hard,” he said. “Punahou blitzed more. Last time, they were (more basic). They brought more people this time.”
Punahou contained most of Saint Louis’ ground attack. No Crusader rushed for more than 9 yards aside from Cordeiro. His two TD runs were right up the middle out of scramble situations, which was unexpected considering his ability to gain chunks of yardage with his legs all season long.
“I was surprised. We just stick to the game plan. We have a lot of weapons. Our offensive line is getting better every game, working hard. Our slots, our wideouts, they all work hard,” said Cordeiro, who was sacked just three times on 30 pass attempts and 11 rushes, mostly scrambles out of the pocket.