There is plenty of football to be played as the regular season nears a close.
At this point, Koali Nishigaya has played as close to his potential as any skill-position player in the state. He is, pound for pound, an invaluable piece in Saint Louis’ quest for a fourth state championship in a row. With 47 receptions for 699 yards and seven TDs, he is always ready to haul in spirals from Jayden de Laura when wideouts Roman Wilson and Matt Sykes draw close attention from defenders. With three rushing TDs, Nishigaya has also been a key contributor at running back when called on.
Coaches have noticed, of course. Here’s what coaches on campus, like Saint Louis offensive coordinator Ron Lee, and off, like Rod York of Mililani, think of Nishigaya’s performance this season.
What separates Nishigaya from other receivers?
> York: “Nishigaya wants it. His mind-set seems that he wants to make most of his opportunity. It’s not about his size. It’s his heart and ‘Want To’. He was very impressive running the ball against Punahou, and even more impressive against us. Made great catches and explosive after the catch.”
> Cal Lee, Saint Louis head coach: “He was always good, you know what I mean? But he didn’t get the ball thrown to him as much as this year. Right now everybody’s watching the two receivers (Roman Wilson, Matt Sykes). I always liked him. He’s a hard worker.”
Who does Nishigaya remind you of?
> Darren Johnson, Campbell: “George Ornellas.”
> York: “He reminds me of Craig Stutzmann because he plays with heart and has a chip on his shoulder that makes him a big time playmaker on the No. 7 team in the nation.”
> Cal Lee: “I think he compares to (Julian) Edelman.”
Where do you project Nishigaya at the next level:
> Johnson: “He can play slot for UH. He’s an awesome player.”
> York: “UH needs to offer this homegrown kid because I don’t look at his size, but rather his ABILITY. He can no doubt play for UH and he would increase ticket sales because he represents the majority of Hawaii. He is an underdog that deserves a shot with the big dogs. He excites the crowd. He is fun to watch.”
> Cal Lee: “There’s no question he can play. Everyone looks at size. It’s a big thing, but you’ve got to think about the player. Can he play? He’s a player. He’s going to make someone real happy for sure. Down the road, there will be schools, hopefully, that come after him. The production is key. The kid is smart. Somebody’s just got to give him a chance.”
> Ron Lee, Saint Louis offensive coordinator: “He turns his catches into big plays. He understands the offense and he knows how to get open. I recruited Chad (Owens) mainly because of his attitude. We went to Roosevelt mainly to recruit Chad Kapanui. His enthusiasm, he’s so gung-ho and did everything 100 percent, that’s how we noticed him. Chad (Owens) walked on. He wasn’t heavily recruited. Coming out of high school, Koali knows more about the game, the coverages, the feel of getting open. He has football speed. Chad walked on and kind of learned the system. Koali knows way more than Chad (did). Chad did some fantastic things as he went along in college. I think Koali could play for a lot of colleges right now as a freshman.”