There is Saint Louis, a dynasty reborn.
There is the rest of Hawaii high school football. It’s enough to bring pride back into Crusader Nation as the team continues its quest for a fourth-consecutive state title. With all the hoopla and spotlight on the Mililani-St. John Bosco showdown set for Saturday, the ILH’s best teams are prepared to square off on Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
Saint Louis has won 31 games in a row, including a recent 31-19 victory over national powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Nev.). Players battle every day for a chance to get more playing time on a roster that is talented and deep at every position. Punahou, like Saint Louis, is 6-0, including 4-0 in ILH Open play.
The Buffanblu enter the game ranked and tied with Mililani at No. 2. Ranked No. 1 all season, Saint Louis has not lost its edge. On Thursday, coach Cal Lee talked about the game, his team and the Mililani-St. John Bosco matchup.
HPW: I’ve heard it both ways about the ILH playoff format. I’ve heard the third-place team will be out. I’ve heard 2 will play 3.
Cal Lee: I believe it’s 2 plays 3. If they’re going by the record, all the OIA games count, so yeah, whoever has the best record in Open.
HPW: Have you and your staff seen enough of Punahou live, or is it still a lot of video study.
Cal Lee: Everybody’s looking at each other, I’m pretty sure. We saw them play other teams. We saw them play recently. We keep looking at film, see if we can get better.
HPW: They’ve played top-level football all season, even after Hugh Brady hurt his knee. The freshman, John-Keawe Sagapolutele, has been a revelation.
Cal Lee: I am really impressed for him being a freshman. He doesn’t act like a freshman. He keeps getting better and better each week. He’s doing a good job.
HPW: I have to imagine defenses have try to test him.
Cal Lee: I think it’s just a matter of (Sagapolutele) being young and inexperienced. You get confidence when you start playing and you’re doing good stuff. They’re undefeated. They’re doing something good and it starts with the QB. Being a freshman, wow.
HPW: How is the health of the team?
Cal Lee: So far everybody’s healthy, ready to go.
HPW: I’m guessing Saint Louis could be a little creative defensively, but your defense has been so solid from tackling to coverage, there might not be a need to try anything fancy with Jordan Botelho, Nick Herbig and all the experienced players in the box.
Cal Lee: I think we’re doing the things that we do, things that can be successful. He’s got a good offensive line. It’s not just him against us. That front five that’s blocking is doing a good job, giving him time to throw the ball.
HPW: They had a consistent running game last week against Waianae. Vincent Terrell ran for four TDs.
Cal Lee: I think he’s a good runner and they’re going to test us. What’s wrong with giving him the ball and making things happen? We want to make sure he doesn’t get those 85-yard runs.
HPW: Playing a rival like Punahou is plenty of motivation, but there’s something special going on with Saint Louis. Every week, the team seems to get sharper and sharper. How do you keep everyone motivated at a high level?
Cal Lee: We’re playing a different team that’s doing some good stuff. We’re not playing Sacred Hearts. We just gotta keep getting better, always room for improvement, staying sharp, not taking anybody lightly. When we practice, it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve got to be ready. We haven’t played them before (this season), so we’ve got to be ready.
HPW: Your offense is so balanced, and Punahou’s defense has been playing well as group.
Cal Lee: Their defense is doing a good job. I know they’ve shut out a few teams. You can’t lose if the other team can’t score.
HPW: I want to ask about the Mililani-St. John Bosco game on Saturday. Are you planning to watch the game in person or on TV?
Cal Lee: If it’s on TV, that’s pretty good. You get a pretty good idea of what Mililani is doing. Our main concern is getting ready for Punahou. We can think about Mililani next week.
HPW: If you had a friend who said, too bad Saint Louis isn’t playing St. John Bosco, what would you say?
Cal Lee: I don’t even know. That’s not in my thought. It’ll probably be a good game.
HPW: Who do you think wins?
Cal Lee: They’re both good teams. Flip a coin. You never know. That’s why you play the game, to find out.
HPW: OK, Cal Lee picks Mililani to beat St. John Bosco.
Cal Lee: You look at stats and all that kind of stuff, but right now, they both have a chance.
HPW: Thank you, Coach.