Near the end of Thursday’s football scrimmage on the Saint Louis campus, coaches Cal Lee of the Crusaders and Campbell’s Darren Johnson greeted one another jovially behind the line of scrimmage.
Seeing the two ol’ deep-rooted veterans of football wars shaking hands was a sure sign that the long-awaited high school season is here.
And the best joke of the day was at Johnson’s expense. One of the assistant coaches came over to Johnson when the scrimmage was done and said, “You almost became the first coach to get kicked out of a scrimmage.”
Sure enough, a bit earlier, Johnson argued for a catch when an official overruled another official by saying the Campbell receiver dropped the ball.
Johnson was loud, but to the point: “The official over there called it a catch.”
And, being the gentleman he is under all the gruffness, Johnson immediately held up his hand to an approaching official and said calmly, “I’m good. I’m good. I just want you to know the official over there called it a catch.”
The games we play, and the games within the games we play. It will all be here for Hawaii football fans soon enough. A bunch of scrimmages were held Thursday on Oahu and more are set for Friday and Saturday. Next week, real nonleague games begin.
“Nobody wins scrimmages,” Johnson told Hawaii Prep World afterward. “I’m optimistic. We played all of our kids a lot. We saw our guys wanting to battle. I think we’re going to be pretty dang good. Scrimmages help you fix up what you need to get fixed. I liked that our kids played hard and didn’t back down. I didn’t like that we were getting beat on the outside on the deep balls. There was no consistency. But our defensive inside seven played good. I liked some of the offensive linemen, the way they came off the ball and I like the way we competed.”
It’s true, Saint Louis’ high-powered passing game, at times, had its way with the Campbell secondary. Chevan Cordeiro, the heir apparent to the departed Tua Tagovailoa, threw early scores to Mitchell Quinn and Jonah Panoke. Kainalu Reyes-Hackney was among the others to catch a TD pass, on a toss from backup Maika Bonner.
The Campbell offense showed it can move the ball with junior Krenston Kaipo at the controls behind center.
Defensively, the Sabers’ Pokii Adkins-Kupukaa intercepted a pass and maybe could have returned it for a touchdown, but the quick scrimmage whistle blew.
Lee is trying to repeat last year’s state championship, which is something that took three years to accomplish since his return from many years away from the sidelines. In 2014, upon his return as the Crusaders’ head coach, Saint Louis placed second to Punahou in the ILH. In 2015, the Crusaders won the ILH, but lost in the Division I state final to Kahuku. Last year, Saint Louis avenged that loss with a victory in the Open Division state championship game over Kahuku.
“This being our first scrimmage, you gotta like what you see,” Lee said. “We’re looking for the perfect scrimmage or the perfect game, but you know what, we’ve never had one. You just gotta keep working. We made some good plays. We had some picks and some good tackles and we did a good job of gang-tackling and running to the ball. We can get better, though. The next scrimmage, we gotta get better.”
There was a bit of a treat for anyone who stayed until the tail end of the scrimmage.
That was when Saint Louis quarterback Jayden de Laura stepped in. He is not the backup and won’t see action this year, but he is someone to watch in the future.
De Laura, a transfer from Damien, is a sophomore and will sit out the whole season before being eligible for his junior and senior seasons.
Although he only played a handful of plays, it was an eye-opener. He was quick and shifty as a runner and an accurate passer, with a flair for the dramatic as was evidenced on the timing of a succesful and unexpected shovel pass.
Cordeiro knows how good de Laura is.
“He’s going to be the next guy (next year) and he is going to be good,” Cordeiro said. “He has talent and he works hard.”
Campbell, the No. 9 team in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s preseason Top 10, plays Castle in a 4 p.m. scrimmage Saturday. Saint Louis has split-squad scrimmages against Kailua (9 a.m.) and Kaimuki (4 p.m.) on Saturday.
Next week, Campbell hosts Kapolei in a nonleague game Aug. 4, and Saint Louis visits Waianae on Aug. 5.