Two days before the big day, Cal Lee is in a good place.
Focused. Relaxed. Details, details, details. After 14 Oahu Prep Bowl titles, two state championship crowns, coaching at the University of Hawaii, a stint as AFL2 Hawaiian Islanders coach, and contributing to Kalani’s ascent out of the doldrums, he is back home. Defending titles, that’s something that is never easier than winning them. But Saint Louis is in position to win a second Open Division crown in a row, this rematch of last year’s state final with Kahuku will have a different look, for sure.
Coach Lee, who was named the Cover2 coach of the year on Thursday night, chatted with HPW earlier in the day.
Saint Louis football
HPW: Your front seven has been pushed to the limit and pushed right back successfully every time this year. Versatile. Fundamental. Fast. Smart. Noa Purcell. The young one, Jordan Botelho.
Lee: Botelho has done a great job. He’s a young boy, but he learns quick, understands what we’re trying to do. Same for our other guys Mason Taliulu, Isaiah Feary.
HPW: Sol-Jay Maiava (of Kahuku) can be a flamethrower. I saw a game (against Kapolei), he threw the ball 24 times in the first half. Then he can be a patient manager, content to hand the ball off until the opportunity is there. I’m guessing Saint Louis will keep things basic and try anything too cute.
Lee: That’s all you can do. I wish I knew who he was handing it to. He’s got that threat, can hand off or run and still looks downfield when he’s on the run. You can’t just forget about the pass when he scrambles.
HPW: That’s a huge challenge for every outside linebacker.
Lee: You’ve got to keep him in the pocket and get the pressure from the inside but he’s dangerous when he runs outside. You can want him to stay in the pocket, he’s an athlete and he’s going to want to make plays.
HPW: That’s a big job for those guys. Is it fair to say that in one sense, if Kama Moore is playing great football at cornerback, that frees the rest of the defense up?
Lee: If we can take away their receivers. Kama is kind of a sleeper nobody knows about him unless you play against him. We put him on an island and he does his thing, and he does it well. Hopefully, he does it one more game.
HPW: Rod York says Kama is the best cornerback in the state. Tall and long.
Lee: That’s the thing. They don’t know much about him unless you’re focusing on him. He’s a calm effective player who does his job well.
HPW: There just isn’t much action on his side of the field. He just covers so well. I wonder if UH will recruit him.
Lee: He’d love to go to UH. We’ll see.
HPW: Kahuku Coach Makoa Freitas loves to have that ground game, even though they pass a lot more compared to the past two years.
Lee: Their O-line is big, physical, strong. They do a great job blocking, and that’s a big challenge for us. But that’s what you want.
HPW: Do you ever talk with Faatui (Tuitele) or other guys separately about game plan or anything else?
Lee: I treat everybody the same. They’ve got to be ready to compete and put that effort out there. You’re going against good people. You work your technique and you try to get by them. We can’t score without the ball, they’ve got a running game and a passing game now so you’ve got to prepare for both.
HPW: Kahuku threw the ball 37 times last week, but with Sol-Jay playing with an injury, maybe they run more than usual. They’ve got plenty of quality running backs.
Lee: 22 (Enoch Nawahine) has got some wiggle.
HPW: He was at Punahou before transferring to Kahuku this year. Is there anything similar in what he did there and what he does at Kahuku?
Lee: It’s a different system. He’s a good player, a concern for us because he can giddy up and go. Maiava, 44 (Toalei Lefau), 33 (Wes Alo-Maiava), those guys you see a lot of them, they’re in there all the time. Whoever they put got out there, we’ve got to be ready.
HPW: All these great teams, winning Prep Bowls and state titles starting in 1983. You’re probably too busy to even think about it
Lee: Basically, I don’t think about it. It’s history behind me. We’re just looking ahead and making sure we compete, and give a lot of effort on Saturday.