Saint Louis vs. Punahou is as wild, entertaining and gritty a matchup as any.
Last year, Saint Louis won the first matchup 64-44 before Punahou took the rematch 33-20 before the Crusaders rebounded for a 28-14 win for the ILH football title en route to a state championship.
Saint Louis (3-0, 1-0 ILH D-I) meets Punahou (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium with first place in the league at stake. Crusaders coach Cal Lee chatted about the game on Thursday morning.
HPW: What makes this game with Punahou different from other games with Punahou?
Lee: It’s always been a real challenge. Our league is really tough with Kamehameha and Punahou. The same thing is at stake. Both of us want to be undefeated, to do that somebody’s got to lose. The competition has always been good. Win or lose, you like that competition where you get after people, play hard and compete.
HPW: Your defensive line. You mentioned last time that the other guys besides Faatui Tuitele, who has 18 scholarship offers — are a bit overlooked — Michael Malepeai and Gino Quinones. What is it about them that you enjoy as a coach?
Lee: They just keep working hard. Tui has all the recognition and all that good stuff, and well deserved. But these guys keep competing and they want to get better. They do their best and work hard every day. If you do that, good things happen.
HPW: This is not on my original list of questions, but what is your perspective on the amazing number of scholarship offers your defensive players have received? DB Isaiah Tufaga (seven scholarship offers), DB Isaiah Feary (Hawaii), DB Kai Kaneshiro (Hawaii), LB Noa Purcell (Fresno State), LB Isaiah Taliulu (Air Force) and Tuitele.
Lee: I like the fact that they’re getting offers, and there’s no question. They start offering early these days. You get happy for them getting an offer. They have to maintain that. Just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you’re that good already. You have to learn how to handle praise, to be humble, appreciate it, but you still got to keep working hard.
HPW: Two weeks ago, you were ready to get back to the practice field after beating Kamehameha. Did practice go well?
Lee: Yeah, you always find things. It’s great that we won the game. We had some good plays, people played well, but you’re still not perfect yet. I want them to keep their feet on the ground and know they can still get better.
HPW: What are your biggest concerns about Punahou’s offense, and Punahou’s defense?
Lee: It starts with the quarterback (Stephen Barber). He has the ball every single play and we don’t have to tell you how gifted a runner he is. He can throw the ball as well, deep as well. It’s a concern.
HPW: He seems to thrive in the late going, too. Very physical as a runner.
Lee: We’ve got to wrap him up, that’s no question. A hand won’t do it. Grab him, squeeze him and give him a lot of loving. He is experienced. He knows. He’s gotten hit before, so he’s used to it.
HPW: Our resident archivist and prep football historian, Jerry Campany, dug up some intriguing numbers recently. In your first 89 games as a head coach, your win-loss record was 69-20. The only other coach who has come close is Rod York of Mililani, who was 70-19 in his first 89 games. If you were to stop today, he would have to win 10 games per year, and then he would catch you in 2037. You haven’t stopped whether it was at Hawaii or Kalani, and it seems like you may never stop.
Lee: You get old and you love your job, but some day, everybody retires.