Cal Lee: Saint Louis’ GEICO bowl game is a ‘tremendous honor’

Saint Louis head coach Cal Lee, right, talked to his team during the first half against Kahuku in the Open Division state final. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Cal Lee wasn’t feeling well for a little while before the state Open Division championship game on Nov. 29.

He missed the news conference three days before Saint Louis’ 45-6 victory over Kahuku. He was also not in attendance when linebacker Jordan Botelho was presented his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey at the school three days after the title game.

Maybe Lee was still fighting the bug. Or maybe he went into just a little bit of a hiding period for a couple of days so he could relax after a long, strenuous and fulfilling season without having to be here, there or everywhere.

When reached by cell phone Thursday, Lee was asked if he was feeling well and the answer was a resounding yes.

Lee was also asked how this 2019 team stacks up against all of those juggernaut Crusaders teams from the past.

“They’re all pretty good,” was his first thought. “You think about all those teams and then you think about this team. They (the ’19 Crusaders) are comparable to the rest of them, for sure.”

Lee may have gotten a few leisurely days in, but it isn’t going to last. The Crusaders (12-0), winners of 38 games in a row, have one more order of business ahead of them in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series, Dec. 21 in Las Vegas.

“We’ve got a game, but we don’t know who we’re playing,” Lee said. “Nothing (about an opponent) is set in stone.

“The team they’re inviting (sources say it’s St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) was in the same situation as us. They have to win (the Florida 7A state championship game against Edgewater of Orlando on Dec. 14). If they win, it will be them. If not them, it will be somebody else.”

Saint Louis’ bowl game will be one of two games played as part of the GEICO series.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be chosen,” Lee said. “And it’s rewarding for the kids for what they’ve done. It’s like going to a bowl game, just like in college. You feel pretty good about yourself to be invited.”

Lee is hoping the rest of the Hawaii football community supports the Crusaders for the GEICO game that will be televised on ESPNU.

“Being showcased across the nation is quite a privilege and honor,” he added. “Now, you’re representing Saint Louis High School and the whole state of Hawaii. (For some Hawaii fans), that’s (the Crusaders) your team now. We’re representing you.

“It’s like all the players who have done well playing football here in Hawaii, like Tua (Tagovailoa) and all the guys who have played in the NFL. You’re happy for them. You don’t care what school you went to. They’re from Hawaii.”

Lee got around to talking about his fine corps of receivers, who — along with quarterback Jayden de Laura — make life extremely difficult for opponents.

Matt Sykes with his size and ability, Roman Wilson with his speed and elusive running, Koali Nishigaya with not the biggest stature but what he does on the field is outstanding,” Lee said. “As a defender, you gotta go find him. If you’re looking for the two wideouts, then here comes Koali. I’m so happy he had a great year.”

There is no definite starting quarterback next year, according to Lee. Three QBs are waiting to succeed de Laura, who himself succeeded Tagovailoa.

The coach said AJ Bianco, who was out close to two months with a broken collarbone, Connor Apo and Kekahi Graham will be competing for the job.

Next year, Apo will be a senior, Bianco a junior, and Graham a sophomore.

Lee, in his 27th season as a head coach, is 296-40-5. One of the team’s signature games this season came at Aloha Stadium against Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), a 31-19 win. The Gaels fell out of the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, but still hold the top rank in Nevada despite losing in overtime to Liberty in the title game.

Saint Louis is No. 7 and St. Thomas Aquinas (13-0) is No. 5 in the Xcellent 25.

Lee’s Crusaders have won four Open Division state championships in a row. The school owns seven top-tier state titles, including five with Lee as head coach.

From 1983 to ’98 (before the state tournament era began in 1999), Lee led the Crusaders to 14 Oahu Prep Bowl championships, including 13 in a row from ’86 to ’98.


  1. Ilh December 5, 2019 5:38 pm

    Congratulations Cal Lee, Ron Lee and the rest of all the great coaches and players from Saint Louis, make Hawaii Proud

  2. ??? December 5, 2019 6:20 pm

    Nick, can you Please explain how Cal & Strenuous season pair up?
    Was it the Stress of knowing when to pull his starters during every blowout?
    Was it the Stress of only having 8 players with DI offers on Defense?
    Was it the Stress of a player getting suspended and not knowing which one of his 94 players would step up?
    or maybe the Stress of being sick and not trusting his 20 assistant coaches to run practice?
    Just wondering? Have a great day!

  3. Lou December 5, 2019 6:40 pm

    Well okay then. We now know why the last two State games were put into mercy rule. Why the d wasn’t pulled after 5 td lead. Yup, now you gotta impress the national selection committee. So much for local boys.

  4. Hboy December 5, 2019 6:45 pm

    This Red Raider will be cheering for the Crusaders in the Geico Bowl coming up. I hope all of Hawaii cheers for them. They are the flag bearers of Hawaii High School Football. Bus em up, play fast and smart and injury free.

  5. Recruited not Rooted December 5, 2019 8:15 pm

    @ ??? We all know you’re a clown but that post was pretty funny. Truth be told though, Coach Cal and Coach Ron are by far and away the best coaches in Hawaii. They out coached Gorman’s Sanchez and staff by a mile. The adjustments they made at halftime of the first puns game and the game plan put in for the second puns game exhibit their greatness. Fortunately it will be put on full display for the nation to see on ESPN U Dec 21st when Saint Louis whoops Saint Thomas Aquinas or Saint Francis Academy. Let’s go Crusaders, rep the 808, you all make us proud.

  6. Recruited not Rooted December 5, 2019 8:19 pm

    @ LOU At least they pulled the offense midway through the third. Always gotta hate don’t you. Must suck being you.

  7. Choloropicrin December 5, 2019 8:20 pm

    DeLaura came after Cordeiro not Tagovailoa

  8. Jowenna December 5, 2019 11:49 pm

    People may hate what St. Louis does far as recruiting but what other public school will develop and get these kids ready for D1? I’ll wair

  9. rrforlifebaby December 6, 2019 9:18 am

    Go get’em Boys!! Rep the 808 well!!


  10. Hau’ulaBoy December 6, 2019 9:22 am

    Go get it Crusaders. Show the nation what Hawaii football is about. RR4L but rooting for the boys from Kalaepohaku.

  11. Hawaii Pride December 6, 2019 10:55 am

    Saint Louis go and rep for the state of Hawaii. Its good to see Kahuku behind the crusaders reppin hawaii. If it was the other way around, any team reppin hawaii should have each others back regardless of the rivalry that we have here. At the end of the day , it shows how great and upcoming hawaii football is on a national level. I believe the crusaders can hang with these teams, its just they might not see speed like they used to. But saint Louis Offense i believe can score on any team in the nation. I think this is a good test to see where hawaii football stands. Mililani, Kahuku, and Punahou will be put at a higher watch list if the crusaders can pull this off. Lets go hawaii, support the crusaders we are all one big family here in hawaii. No other state in the nation can come close to what we people here in Hawaii call Ohana. Go get em.

  12. Pukalani boy December 6, 2019 12:47 pm

    St. Louis show them da 808 can play football

  13. Kingston December 6, 2019 4:31 pm

    What is the Hawaii Time game is being televised on ESPN? Want to watch it!

  14. 9 | 6 | 7 | 6 | 2 December 8, 2019 10:46 am

    As a Kahuku fan and alum (class of 1995). St Louis has my full support. Rep for all us here in Hawaii.

    808 vs EVERYBODY

  15. Mana Kahala December 9, 2019 4:27 pm

    Let’s go BROTHERHOOD!!!Rep the 808!!!

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