The two-time defending state champion Saint Louis Crusaders are grinding day by day, hour by hour.
Senior defensive tackle Faatui Tuitele, who has 39 scholarship offers, leads the way for a talented defensive unit. With a new starting quarterback for the second time in as many seasons, head coach Cal Lee isn’t about to take a thing for granted. Not in the new gauntlet known as Open Division — three ILH and six OIA powerhouses. The Crusaders open the regular season with a matchup against Waianae on Friday at Aloha Stadium.
Lee chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday about Saint Louis’ defense and some of his off-field concerns with the new format.
HPW: Is this the best defensive line you’ve had since returning to Saint Louis?
Cal Lee: I think you have to go through the season to figure It out. We put Tui on the left side. He’s humble and just wants to get better each year. This being his final year he wants to stay healthy and have a great year.
HPW: Who are your guys at linebacker?
Lee: Nick Herbig, in the middle we have Kila Kamakwiwo‘ole and Lawai Brown. They’ve been doing good.
HPW: Who’s starting in the secondary?
Lee: Junior Wily, Brian Cox, Kaiser Cambra-Cho. Everybody’s still battling, though.
HPW: How do you feel at this point?
Lee: I feel OK, all right. The kids are working hard. Quarterback (Jayden de Laura), for one, he hasn’t played. He’s progressing. He’s got to go under the gun, under the lights for his first game. He’s doing the things that he’s doing, but he’s got to play in the lights.
HPW: What’s your perspective on the Open Division? It’s something you and the ILH coaches have wanted for a long time.
Lee: It’s a tough schedule for everybody. The thing they said is the games don’t count. I thought all the games counted, but now I’m hearing it doesn’t count. If you could call up the ILH and ask them. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it doesn’t count. But I’m hoping everything counts. (Note: Both the ILH and OIA are counting the interleague games in their standings.) What I’m concerned with is the state tournament still gets three (teams) from the OIA and one from the ILH. And they have 100 percent of the gate when we play at OIA sites. When we play in the stadium, after they pay for the rental, the OIA gets 80 percent. ILH gets 20.
HPW: The ILH has three of the nine teams in Open Division, so the math doesn’t seem to work in the ILH’s favor.
Lee: Oh yeah. I’ve got to call Keith Amemiya and ask him for some money. And the (student) activity cards, when we play the OIA, the cards are no good. When our students go to our game against Waianae, our students have to pay $5. Or if they have to go to any OIA site, they have to pay. I don’t know if OIA is charging their kids to pay to see (Open Division football games). I don’t think people realize they have to pay. I’m wondering if everyone has to pay.
But the OIA gets 80 percent of the gate at Aloha Stadium. And 100 percent at their sites. They’re going to make a killing. Parking, concessions and gate. Everybody wants to be fair. Give us something. We’ve got to pay for bus rentals. The school pays for it. We’re on the road all the time. Campbell. Farrington. Kapolei. Mililani.
HPW: The ILH teams used to have two- and three-week byes. Now they have eight games with just one bye. They had no leverage, though, making this deal with the OIA.
Lee: It makes sense because I know for a fact, Keith Amemiya offered every (OIA) school $36,000 for three years (in 2016). $3 million and they rejected it.
HPW: Yes, that was an offer the OIA turned down.
Lee: And they’re crying about they don’t have money. He said go with it.