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Monday, 7 November, 2011 12:45 PM
Pali Makes Jump to D-I Football at EMU
Reghi and Graber Talk up Maui, Detroit and MAC Sports
YPSILANTI, Mich. -- He first went the California Community College route. Now he is making a name as a linebacker and defensive back for Eastern Michigan University. Bryan Pali, the 6’0” junior from Kamehameha Schools has played in every game for the Eagles this season. He made the leap from Orange Coast Community College to Division-I football after two seasons. “The Mid-American Conference is definitely a step up. Everything is faster,” said Pali.
Pali and three other JC transfers have transformed EMU to a potential Bowl team. Against Ball State, Pali had a nifty interception that stalled a drive by sophomore quarterback sensation Keith Wenning. Next week’s game against Buffalo will decide the season for EMU (5-4). The Eagles need two more wins to be Bowl bound. They have not been to a Bowl since the 1987 upset win over San Jose State in the California Bowl.
The Kihei native son credits his success to his junior football development days on Maui. “We had a great youth program before high school that let me grow at my pace. We had great coaching. Football is king on Maui. If we win two more we will be Bowl eligible. That will give us 13 more practices for next season.”
Eastern Michigan coach Ron English is a defensive specialist. He had been Defensive Coordinator at the University of Michigan previously and stresses defense. He said after the Ball State game, “Pali has an instinct for the ball carrier. He knows how to stick. Toughness is a learned trait and he has it, added English.”
Pali’s basketball coach at Kamehameha Schools, Lance Cagasan said, “He always played a strong “D”, even in basketball it made the whole team better on the floor.”
Besides the interception, Pali had two tackles and assisted on three more. EMU, in front of 6,000 on a warm sunny football Saturday, lost a heartbreaker to the Cardinals, 33-31 on Steven Schott’s 44 yard field goal with nine second left. It was dramatic as Schott had to do it twice, when the Eagles called timeout right before Schott made the first try. He nailed the second attempt with room to spare. Ball State is also in the hunt for a Bowl at 6-4.
The EMU defense had limited the Cardinals to just 91 yards rushing on 22 carries, but Wenning picked up the slack, completing 20-of-35 passes for 284 yards and two scores.
The game was highlighted by being the ABC ESPN-Plus regional telecast with Michael Reghi and Doug Graber at the microphone. Coach Graber the longtime NFL Europe and former Rutgers head coach is a native Detroiter. Both broadcasters were diplomatic in their highlights regarding EMU and Ball State. Reghi has a long history with the MAC sports scene and spoke knowledgably about Kamehameha Schools and the EU-Sports Maui Basketball Invitational. Greg Logan of Monday Night Football, was director-producer.
Graber has a 35 year football coaching pedigree that started in Detroit at Allen Park Cabrini in the Detroit Catholic League. His football journeys got jump started at Wayne State. He later coached the Frankfurt Galaxy to the 2003 World Bowl Championship for NFL Europe and was named Coach of the Year. “Leonard Neimowitz was my mentor at Cabrini, he knew all the Polish tavern owners downriver. He had been a Carlings Black Label beer distributor, knew everyone. A real true sports ambassador. I had him address my Rutgers team in the locker room at half-time in 1991 when we beat Michigan State at Spartan Stadium, 14-7. That was a great thrill for both of us, super memories. His wife Virginia was special also. She was a great lady of Allen Park.”
EMU has already won the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Trophy by besting Central Michigan and Western Michigan. The Michigan MAC Trophy was created in 2005 by the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. Pali added, “We are not satisfied, our pre-season goal is a Bowl Game. That is our goal.”
The Eagles will stay in Rynearson Stadium for a second straight week when they host East Division rival University at Buffalo Saturday, Nov. 12, at 1 p.m.
Editors Note: Raymond Rolak is a longtime and well traveled sports broadcaster who writes often about Maui sports.
Graphic credit: EA Sports
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