Cal Lee knows what National Letter of Intent Signing Day can be like for college coaches.
His years at Hawaii, at this time of year, was about receiving faxes from recruits. Tying up loose ends. Fortifying the Warrior defense. In his four seasons at Kalani as an assistant, and now his fifth season, in his second go-round at Saint Louis — 28th season in prep football — he’s on the other side of the connection.
His unbeaten Saint Louis Crusaders (9-0) have one of the best defensive units in the nation. Lee is enjoying every moment possible. His seniors and the season will be done soon. The Crusaders face OIA runner-up Kahuku on Friday night in the semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division State Championships.
The seniors have brought him a lot of satisfaction and peace of mind. Who will he miss most?
Lee chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
Lee:Oh gosh, there’s a whole bunch of guys. You can go up and down the list, top to bottom. You get attached to them, but you’re happy because they’re going to further their education.
HPW: Any kind of scholarship is huge. Tuition, books, dorming, it’s $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a yea at some schools.
Lee:A scholarship is a great help to the family, a blessing.
HPW: It’s the rematch with Kahuku. They’re a better team now than they were the first time when Saint Louis won 30-14.
Lee:Kahuku’s a good football team. They got here because they play good football. For us it’s been a three-week bye, the waiting part. They played us, so there’s a lot of things I’m sure that are changed. A lot of guys back healthy. We’ve got to be ready for what they do offensively and defensively.
HPW: That extra practice time gives all teams a chance to expand the playbook with gadget plays and surprises.
Lee:We have to be aligned properly, prepare for all the formations they may come tip with. They’ve had two weeks to prepare. You never know what they’ll come out with. Tackle well, block well, receivers running the right routes. You hope you prepared well.
HPW: What happens for you as a coach when the break is three weeks?
Lee:One week of preparation is enough. Two weeks, you think too much. I think two weeks is enough. Three weeks, you get kind of bored doing the same thing over and over, and with the changing of (Kahuku offensive) coordinators, you don’t know what they’re going to do.
HPW: As a former linebacker, how much are you enjoying what your LBs do, your front seven, the whole defense?
Lee:All you gotta do is keep practicing the things you need to do, make sure they’re in the right position to make plays, then they can secure and make the tackle, get there. Lawai Brown, Nick Herbig, Kila Kamakawiwo‘ole, Jordan Botelho, they’re all veterans.
HPW: How’s the scout team work, running Kahuku’s packages.
Lee:You can simulate a game, but it’s not a real game situation. Guys got to react.
HPW: And there won’t be any post-play celebration penalties. Jordan was very regretful about his penalties. For awhile, there was some question about whether he would be suspended for the first game of the state tournament.
Lee:He’s a kid and they learn from it, and hopefully everybody learns you don’t do things to hurt the team. The celebration on TV, I was watching (former Saint Louis and current Hawaii WR DevanStubblefield, caught the ball and celebrated, and the ref ran to him to knock it off. I don’t like it.
HPW: The linebacker crew is up against speedy running backs, and Toalei Lefau (5-11, 235) brings some heft.
Lee:I let them know, and they’ve seen tape of Lefau and how big he is and how hard he runs, got to tackle properly and gang tackle.
HPW: How much time and reps go into the defense practicing stripping the ball, forcing giveaways?
Lee:If he’s not down, we absolutely work on turnovers, create turnovers by practicing it. Tipping the ball, all that stuff.