Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
Nishigaya ignites Crusaders in rout of Mililani


  



Fri, Sep 27, 2019 @ Aloha Stadium [ 7:30 pm ]


Final 1 2 3 4 T
MIL (8-5-0) 14 0 0 721
STL (12-1-0) 13 21 13 754
Jayden de Laura 380 yd 5 TD
Brendyn Agbayani 271 yd 3 TD
Koali Nishigaya 263 yd 2 TD
Kanoa Gibson 76 yd

HALAWA — Koali Nishigaya certainly gets the most out of his 5-foot-6, 155-pound frame.

The senior slotback caught five passes for a career-high 263 yards and two touchdowns to help top-ranked Saint Louis rally to a 54-21 win over No. 2 Mililani Saturday night.

A crowd of about 3,500 fans at Aloha Stadium saw the Crusaders (7-0 overall, 6-0 league) score 41 consecutive points after trailing the Trojans (6-2, 4-0), 14-13, late in the first quarter to extend their winning streak to 33 games.

Quarterback Jayden de Laura threw for 380 yards and five touchdowns on 12-of-19 passing with one interception. He also tossed a pair of scoring strikes to Roman Wilson (5 catches for 93 yards) and another to Isaac Silva.

Nishigaya gave Saint Louis the lead for good with his 1-yard TD run early in the second quarter. Later in the stanza, he turned a short completion from de Laura on a shallow crossing pattern into a 75-yard score. Two plays into the third quarter, Nishigaya turned another short pass into a 64-yard touchdown.

"He's the real deal. What more can I say?," Saint Louis coach Cal Lee said of Nishigaya. "I mean, his actions speak a lot more words than I could say, I mean, it's right there on film. I mean, the things that he did, he's a big-time guy."

Saint Louis drew upon the experience of having to come back from a 10-point halftime deficit in last week 25-19 win over Punahou.

"Last week was a good wake-up call for us," said Nishigaya, who rushed for two second-half touchdowns against the Buffanblu. "It really taught us as a team that we can fight through adversity and it was a good experience for us and it prepared us for this game, for sure."

The Crusaders found themselves trailing by a point at the end of a fast-paced first quarter Friday night, but turned the tide with their defense.

After a turnover on downs by Mililani at the Saint Louis 37-yard line, Nishigaya hauled in receptions of 46 and 26 yards from de Laura on back-to-back plays to set-up first-and-goal from the Trojans 1. De Laura failed to punch it in after a keeper on first down and a sneak attempt on second. Nishigaya was lined up as the lone running back in a double-tight end formation with de Laura under center.

On third-and-goal, de Laura ran a speed option to his left and pitched it out to Nishigaya, who cut inside of two defenders before walking into the end zone.

"I just do whatever to help the team out; whatever the teams needs, I'll do it," Nishigaya said.

Linebacker Nicholas Herbig did not mince his words when talking about Nishigaya in his postgame comments.

"Koali Nishigaya, man, he's the best player in the state. I mean, teams needs to get after that guy. He's one heck of a player and he makes plays every time he touches the ball, so in my mind he's the best player in the state," Herbig said.

The Crusaders finished with 370 yards of total offense despite minus-17 rushing yards as a team. They also benefitted from a pair of defensive scores on Harvey Welch's 46-yard pick-6 in the second quarter and Dennis Tadio's 37-yard scoop-and-score that stretched it to a 54-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

"We've been down before so we knew what it was like to be down and we didn't want to feel that again, so we just all rallied behind each other and came back for the team win," Herbig said.

Saint Louis had one just turnover — Bam Amina's third-quarter interception off of de Laura — compared to the four fumbles it lost against Punahou last week.

Mililani's three scores all came via Brendyn Agbayani touchdown passes. He tossed a 51-yard scoring strike to Raysen Motoyama on a screen pass and a 7-yard TD to Malosi Sam, both in the first quarter, and closed out the scoring with his 32-yard TD pass to Pono Hookano in the final minute of the contest.

Agbayani finished 21-of-38 passing for 271 yards and was intercepted twice.

The Trojans posted 321 yards of total offense, but were just 4 of 12 on third downs and 1 of 5 on fourth downs. They were also 1 of 3 on red-zone chances.

Mililani found success early on with its run game. It had 70 rushing yards by halftime, but was held to minus-20 yards after the intermission.

"I told ‘em, ‘we gotta stop the run,' " Lee said. "Just making sure we knew what to do in stopping the run, you know, small-kind adjustment, nothing major."

Herbig said the linebackers were not initially reading the gaps correctly, but Lee set them straight.

"He (asked) us like, ‘Do we want to win or lose? That's what it comes down to,' and we had to pull it out of us and really dig down deep and stop that run because they were killing us with it — I'm not gonna lie — but our middle ‘backers Lawaia Brown and Mason Tufaga, they stepped up and they really made a big difference," said Herbig, who finished with a game-high 10 1/2 tackles, including four for losses, two sacks and a forced fumble.

Jordan Botelho added seven stops, two sacks and a forced fumble.

Saint Louis posted five sacks and three takeaways on defense.

"The defense always shows up, they're the best defense in the state for a reason and going against them I get better so shoutout to them, they all show up," Nishigaya said.

The teams combined for 39 penalties. Mililani was flagged 21 times for 205 yards in penalty yardage, while Saint Louis drew 18 penalties for 157 yards.

"Well, I think you know you get competition, there's a lot at stake and everything, the pride and everything, but we gotta take care of ourself and we don't want penalties because penalties hurt us," Lee said. "We gotta be disciplined enough to control our emotions."

Saint Louis led at halftime, 34-14.

It was the second loss to a nationally-ranked team in a week for the Trojans, who were coming off of a 42-10 defeat at the hands of St. John Bosco (Bellflower, California).

Each team has two games left in the regular season. Saint Louis will visit No. 15 Farrington Friday night, while Mililani will host Kapolei next Saturday.



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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