23rd IN A SERIES
This summer, head coaches from all 28 Oahu high school varsity football teams are being asked to recount their football playing days.
One coach interviewed for this multi-part series pointed out what he thinks may be the value of this endeavor:
“A lot of times, you only hear about coaches when they’re getting released or are having a special season. It’s super hard to have a special season, so this should shed more light on them as people and their journey of when they were student-athletes. It’s going to bring more respect to the people who are doing this job. They didn’t all of a sudden become a high school coach because they coached Pop Warner. These guys have gone through it all, they’ve run the gamut of experiences.”
Some made it to the NFL. Others went to big colleges. Still others went the small-college route. They started as young’uns and got the bug, falling in love with football and taking pride in passing on their knowledge.
Along with the coaches’ look-back at their football-playing pasts, they also give their outlook on where their programs are at heading into the 2019 season.
COACH CAL LEE AND THE 2019 SAINT LOUIS CRUSADERS
There’s a triumvirate of Hawaii high school football coaches that Cal Lee looked up to in his playing days and in his formative years as a coach.
He still looks up to them to this day.
That’s pretty amazing since Lee — through the years — has nestled himself at or near the top of that illustrious Hawaii coaching chain. He is the winningest coach in state history, for those keeping score.
The three are Waianae’s Larry Ginoza, ‘Iolani’s Eddie Hamada and Radford’s John Velasco, not in any order.
But none of them come close to having the impact that one other person had on Mr. Calvin Lee, and that is his father, Thomas Lee.
During a phone interview last week and a split second after saying “I get sentimental” when talking about him, Lee’s voice cracked.
“The key guy, the guy that did everything for me was my dad,” he said. “If it wasn’t for him … he was the guy who made me love football. Growing up, 9 years old, what did I know about football? He was always positive. He wouldn’t criticize. He wouldn’t say you shoulda done this or done that. It was: ‘Just go out and try to do your best.’ He was very supportive, and I never had to worry about coming home. It wasn’t only football. It was everything. He was a great dad. I miss him.
“My father could have been and should have been a coach. He would go to me and my two brothers’ games and support us. It was not you gotta win. It was never about winning. It was have a good time and make sure you did your best. He would tell you your mistakes. He was just a great parent. I’m not kidding.”
Another person who had a big influence on Lee in his early years was his Kalanianaole Pop Warner coach, the legendary Tommy Kaulukukui. He then went to play for Kalani High, including three years on the varsity squad under Ed Kawawaki.
“Tommy Kaulukukui’s son, Tommy Jr., was on my team,” he said. “I played center and linebacker in Pop Warner and high school. That’s how it was. They didn’t have an offensive and defensive lineup. I liked defense. You could use your hands and be more physical with people. You’re going after them, rather than blocking them. The coaches were so good and helpful. They made it fun and I enjoyed it. Tommy was a good person to get you started.”
Lee thinks he chose to play center in order to save himself a bit more for defense.
“At center, you didn’t have to run much,” he added.
Linemen Art Rutledge Jr., David Peresa and Fred Wong and defensive back/running back Arnold Galacia were some of Lee’s Falcons teammates.
“We weren’t four wideouts,” he said. “We never knew what four wideouts were.”
After graduating from Kalani in 1964, Lee went to Porterville College, a JC in California, but he didn’t play there.
“Then, when you went to a JC, you had to sit out a year,” Lee said. “It was a bad area. There were Hell’s Angels. I never knew what they were until I got there. That’s where they would hang out. I figured I better start studying so I could get out of Dodge.”
Lee got his grades up and went to Willamette University in Oregon.
“Without football, I wouldn’t have gotten an education,” he said. “That was the key. You have to have good grades to play football. That was a good lesson to learn.”
Lee played four years as a linebacker for Willamette and became an All-American.
“Back then, there was Division I, and the rest of the schools were like NAIA,” he said. “We played Nevada and those schools. I can’t remember what year it was, but we were ranked in the top four and played in Montgomery, Alabama. I can’t remember the team. I think it was Troy State. They played Hawaii the very next year.”
It still bothers Lee that he didn’t get to play in his final college game in the fall of 1969.
“I had an appendicitis attack,” he said. “What are you gonna do? You gotta take care of that. I watched the game.”
Lee’s first coaching job was in 1970 as an assistant working with offensive linemen at Willamette.
In 1971, he was an assistant for his brother Tommy Lee at Saint Louis. For 1972, Tommy went to coach at Willamette and Cal took over as the Crusaders’ head coach.
And the rest is history. Not yet, actually.
“I thought I was going to stay two years as head coach,” he said. “But I didn’t do so well my first year.”
In 1973, ’74 and ’75, Cal Lee coached under his brother Tommy at Kaiser. He then helped head coach Ron Marciel at Saint Louis in 1976 and was up at Willamette under Tommy in 1977.
For 1978, ’79 and ’80, Lee was the defensive coordinator at Kaiser under brother Ron Lee. That 1979 season culminated in an Oahu Prep Bowl championship for the Cougars.
Ron went to Oregon Tech for the 1981 season, when Cal coached Saint Louis’ JV team. By 1982, it was Cal Lee who took over the reins at Saint Louis with Ron as his offensive coordinator.
The dynasty was on its way.
“I always looked up to Larry Ginoza,” Lee said. “We would play them and he was such a good coach. I liked the way he was with discipline. You talk Waianae football — they were disciplined.
“Johnny Velasco at Radford is another famous coach I looked up to and watched what he was doing. Eddie Hamada, another one. You just appreciate what they’re doing. You just kind of want to be like them, the way they worked with kids with their disciplined, solid programs.”
One individual opponent stands out above the rest.
“(Farrington’s) Skippa Diaz,” Lee said. “I was only a sophomore. He was a senior. I was playing linebacker and guess who I had to pay against? Hahaha. He was a monster, a helluva player, a great guy. He could have knocked me all over the place, but I think he took it easy on me. He was that kind of guy.
“(Kamehameha’s) Rockne Freitas was a senior and I was only a sophomore and the mention of his name just gave me shivers.”
Kalani had an outstanding season when Lee was a senior. The Falcons were supposed to play in the Turkey Day bowl doubleheader.
“We had a heckuva year, one of the top four teams, but guess what happened?”
Less than a week earlier, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Thanksgiving Day games were canceled.
Lee likes to tell the story about where he stayed while playing at Willamette.
“Ever hear of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?’ ” he said. “Oregon State Mental Hospital, right in Salem is where we lived for five years. There were a lot of kids from Hawaii and from other states and that was our room and board. We worked there, and I’ll tell you what, the budget for the food was 35 cents per day. The food wasn’t the greatest. But you were right there with the patients. You ate with them. It wasn’t hard work. You stamp their card. But it was something. What an experience.”
Lee feels fortunate to have learned from his brothers.
“So many things” he said. “They showed me that coach is just another word for teach. You have to teach. I don’t think you get the right meaning from the word coach. They showed me that you can’t expect everybody to be All-Americans. You try to make better players whoever they are and whatever size or speed they have. It’s the same as teachers making 2.0 students into 4.0 students. That’s the biggest thing I learned from my brothers.”
Lee, whose Saint Louis teams have won three state Open Division championships in a row, is about to take another spin through another season.
“Last year, you gotta give the players a lot of credit for what they did,” Lee said. “We had tough games all through the league and states. I’m really proud of the way they performed against that competition. It’s not easy.
“Everybody knows they won last year, but what you gotta do is go out there and perform and don’t look back. You can only do that (win another championship) if you practice hard and you stay hungry and you make sure you play the best you can. It’s not free. It’s not charity. People are not giving you a freebie. We’re focusing in on things we need to do to play well and play better. That’s all you can do. We’re excited about the challenge.”
2019 SAINT LOUIS CRUSADERS AT A GLANCE
>> 2018 record and finish: 11-0, 7-0 ILH Open; Defeated Punahou 45-21 in ILH championship game; Beat Kahuku 49-22 in semifinals of HHSAA Open Division state tournament; Defeated Mililani 38-17 in HHSAA Open Division state championship game.
>> Head coach Cal Lee’s staff:
— Ron Lee (offensive coordinator)
— Vinny Passas (quarterbacks)
— Tupu Alualu (running backs)
— Allan Cui (running backs)
— Aaron Mikami (running backs)
— Howard Peralta (receivers)
— Gerald Welch (receivers)
— Patrick Wallace (receivers)
— Alika Fonseca (receivers)
— Robert Crowell (offensive line)
— James Hall (offensive line)
— Leland Tobias (kickers)
— Wes Tufaga (defensive coordinator, defensive backs)
— Keoni Batoon (defensive backs)
— Nainoa Campbell (defensive line)
— Sean Kalima (defensive line)
— Mike Lafaele (defensive line)
— Shawn Pacheco (linebackers)
— Gary Graham (linebackers)
— Steve Segi (linebackers)
— Pat O’Toole (linebackers)
— Sam Downey (linebackers)
>> Approximate varsity and JV numbers: 90 varsity, JV 80
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: Roman Wilson (first-team WR); Jordan Botelho (first-team LB); Nick Herbig (first-team LB); Kamo’i Latu (first-team DB); Jayden de Laura (second-team QB); Stanley Mckenzie (third-team DL).
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: Ben Scott (first-team OL); Arasi Mose (first-team OL); Faatui Tuitele (first-team DL); Korvin Feagins (first-team DB); Gino Quinones (second-team DL); Chance Beyer (third-team WR); Kila Kamakawiwo’ole (third-team LB); Junior Wily (third-team DB).
>> Players with Division I FBS college offers: Jayden de Laura, Sr. QB, 5-11, 183; Roman Wilson, Sr., WR, 5-11, 165; Matt Sykes, Sr., WR, 6-2, 194; Nick Herbig, Sr., OLB, 6-2, 199; Jordan Botelho, Sr., OLB, 6-2, 220; Stanley Mckenzie, Sr. DT, 6-2, 280; Kamo’i Latu, Sr., DB, 6-1, 180; Kaiser Cambra-Cho, Sr., DB, 6-2, 190; Darrell Masaniai, Sr., LB, 6-2, 210; Lawai’a Brown, Sr., LB, 5-11, 190; Mason Tufaga, Jr., LB/DB, 6-1, 180; AJ Bianco, QB, Soph., 6-3, 210.
>> Among 2019 key returnees: Jayden de Laura, Sr. QB, 5-11, 183; Roman Wilson, Sr., WR, 5-11, 165; Matt Sykes, Sr., WR, 6-2, 194; Nick Herbig, Sr., OLB, 6-2, 199; Jordan Botelho, Sr., OLB, 6-2, 220; Stanley Mckenzie, Sr. DT, 6-2, 280.
>> All-time state championships: 6 (3 in D-I — 1999, 2002, 2010; and 3 in Open Division — 2016, 2017, 2018)
>> All-time Prep Bowl (1973-1998) championships: 14 (1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998)
>> All-time ILH championships: 37 (all D-I — 1925, 1930, 1941, 1942, 1945, 1949, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
>> 2019 conference: ILH Open
COMING NEXT IN “GLORY DAYS”:
Part 24: Coach Darrell Poole and the 2019 Kalaheo Mustangs
Previously in the series:
>> Coach Darren Johnson and the 2019 Campbell Sabers
>> Coach John Hao and the 2019 Castle Knights
>> Coach Eddie Klaneski and the 2019 Damien Monarchs
>> Coach David Tautofi and the 2019 Kaimuki Bulldogs
>> Coach Kale Ane and the 2019 Punahou Buffanblu
>> Coach Mike Fanoga and the 2019 Waianae Seariders
>> Coach Bryson Carvalho and the 2019 Waipahu Marauders
>> Coach Mark Kurisu and the 2019 Leilehua Mules
>> Coach Pat Silva and the 2019 McKinley Tigers
>> Coach Kili Watson and the 2019 Nanakuli Golden Hawks
>> Coach Tim Seaman and the 2019 Kaiser Cougars
>> Coach Daniel Sanchez and the 2019 Farrington Governors
>> Coach Scott Melemai and the 2019 Kalani Falcons
>> Coach Lincoln Barit and the 2019 Waialua Bulldogs
>> Coach Savaii Eselu and the 2019 Moanalua Na Menehune
>> Coach Wendell Say and the 2019 Aiea Na Alii
>> Coach Sterling Carvalho and the 2019 Kahuku Red Raiders
>> Coach Abu Maafala and the 2019 Kamehameha Warriors
>> Coach Wendell Look and the 2019 ‘Iolani Raiders
>> Coach Robin Kami and the 2019 Pearl City Chargers
>> Coach Fred Salanoa and the 2019 Radford Rams
>> Coach Kui Kahooilihala and the 2019 Roosevelt Rough Riders