Almost from the time Cal Lee decided to become a coach of football players nearly a half-century ago, his opponents have been trying to find the soft spot in his armor.
Rarely have they actually done it. The last time Lee lost a meaningful game was in 2015 to the Kahuku Red Raiders and their ram-rodding elephant package.
Lee is on the verge of winning a third straight top-tier championship, and that’s hard to do at any level. But it pales in comparison to the 14 straight (13 Oahu Prep Bowls — the de facto state championship — and one state title) he won from 1986 through 1999.
But Lee, 72, doesn’t ever seem to tire of it. Since his re-installation as the head man at Saint Louis in 2014 (he spent 2002 to 2013 coaching elsewhere), he looks more and more comfortable every year.
Lee was all smiles and fully relaxed on Tuesday at a news conference on the Aloha Stadium field. Pretty much all the work of a hard season is done and it’s time to execute that one last time.
“We’re so happy to be here,” he said. “You gotta prepare and be ready. This is it. It’s a great opportunity to get here. Now we’ve got to take advantage of all that time of practicing hard. You do the things you gotta do to get it done. Everybody’s gotta do that, knowing this is the end, the very end of the season. It’s (going to be) over. It’s (going to be) a wrap.”
Told that he looks like he’s really enjoying himself this season, Lee said, “I think you enjoy it, but you enjoy it in your younger days more. As you get older … it’s like running a marathon. After your first one, you’re excited, but after that 30th marathon, you’re like, ‘Here we go.’ ”
And what about that soft spot everybody is looking for? Ironically, it happens to be his Achilles.
“I used to demonstrate way back,” he said. “Now I did one not long ago and and tore my Achilles. Seriously. So now, you demonstrate, but it’s slow motion.”
Lee is 283-40-5 in his 26 years as a head coach. He has been a part of 17 top-tier championship teams (14 Prep Bowls and three state titles). As a program, Saint Louis has 19 titles, with one each from coaches Darnell Arceneaux and Delbert Tengan.
Lee’s Crusaders (10-0) meet Mililani (10-2) at Aloha Stadium at 7:30 p.m. (approximately) on Saturday in the Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships.
It’s the last game of a championship tripleheader that also includes Lahainaluna (10-0) vs. Kapaa (7-2) in the 1:30 p.m. Division II game and Waipahu (9-4) vs. Hilo (9-1) in the 4:30 p.m. D-I game.