Special to Sports Hawaii
By Raymond Rolak
Ypsilanti– 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 Kamahameha 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 development days on Maui. “We had a great youth program before high school that let me grow at my pace. 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 Kamahameha Schools, Lance Cagasan said, “He always played a strong “D”, it made the whole team better on the floor.”
Besides the interception, Pali had four tackles and assisted on 12 more. EMU, in front of 6,000 on a warn sunny football Saturday, lost to the Cardinals 33-31, on Steven Schott’s 44 yard field goal with nine second left. 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 televised on ESPN-Plus.
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.