Shades of Mitchell Quinn.
Two years ago, it was Quinn who emerged out of the depth chart to become a gamebreaker and playmaker for Saint Louis. The lanky wide receiver transformed into an All-State selection and Washington State recruit after being largely unheard of.
Koali Nishigaya wasn’t exactly buried on the bench, but his explosion of late is quite Quinn-esque. The 5-foot-6, 165-pound senior was virtually untouchable at times, breaking off a 75-yard touchdown catch and run before halftime, then opening the second stanza with an astounding 64-yard TD, ripping through an arm tackle en route to the end zone.
Nishigaya accounted for 199 receiving yards by halftime and finished with five receptions for 263 yards on a night when it seemed quite possible that he would not only surpass, but obliterate the single-game state record of 319 receiving yards held by Kailua’s David Kaihenui (2002). This comes off the heels of Saint Louis’ 25-19 win over Punahou when Nishigaya took over at running back and powered his way to the end zone for two crucial TDs in a comeback.
Mililani did what it could to take away Saint Louis’ tall wideout, Matt Sykes, but WR Roman Wilson struck for TD hauls of 53 and 10 yards early. When they had to focus more closely on the two outside receivers, Nishigaya and QB Jayden de Laura took advantage. They couldn’t afford to double-team Nishigaya, and they didn’t adjust to begin the second half.
“I was definitely surprised. It worked out, though. We’re always talking after every drive,” he said of de Laura, who passed for 378 yards on just 11 completions. “We watch Hudl on the sideline so that helps, too.”
Nishigaya, who also scored again at running back, runs just about every possible path on the route tree to precision.
“The underneath routes, just set and go. We just read the coverage. They were playing a certain coverage and we stuck to basics,” Nishigaya said. “Coach Ron (Lee) calls great plays. We go off of him and trust him, and it worked out today.”
Nishigaya now has 41 receptions for 619 yards and six TDs in seven games.
His 263 receiving yards in a game are third-most in school history. Only Quinn and Desmond Hanohano, who both had 307 receiving yards to tie for the team record, have had more.
Oddly enough, both came against Mililani in the state tournament.