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Annual Banquet Offers Chance for Bulldogs to Reflect on Progress

The 2012 Yale football banquet. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
The 2012 Yale football banquet. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Team Awards Announced; Varga MVP

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Slightly more than 48 hours removed from an emotional end to the 2012 season, the Yale football team gathered at Commons Monday night for the team's annual banquet. This was the first under Tony Reno as Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football, and while much of the night was dedicated to the graduating seniors there was also clearly an air of optimism in looking forward to next year. The progress the Bulldogs made under the new coaching staff had just been illustrated by a hard-fought battle with the heavily favored Crimson in the 119th edition of The Game; Yale led until two late touchdowns gave Harvard a 34-24 win.

In addition to putting the season in perspective, the Bulldogs also announced the team award winners and the 2013 team captain, junior defensive end Beau Palin (Oconomowoc, Wisc.).

The evening began with a Blessing from senior offensive lineman Jeff Marrs (Garden Prairie, Ill.). Each of the seniors, and their parents, were introduced to the crowd.

After dinner, Reno introduced the senior class representative -- linebacker Will McHale (Old Greenwich, Conn.), who began by thanking the parents and many other supporters of the team on hand. McHale recalled the high hopes the team had after its first spring practice with the new coaching staff while also noting the adversity the team faced throughout the year.

"The challenges did not stop," McHale said. While he noted that there was no way to change the team's final record, he also relayed a message from his class to those players that return for next season.

"Your future was in our hands, now our legacy is in yours," McHale said. "At Yale we are measured by championships."

Reno, noting the importance of tradition, then introduced a half-dozen former players who were on hand to help give out the team awards (listed below): Bob Blanchard '61, John Downey '51, Tom Kokoska '82, Jon Reese '90, Pat Ruwe '83 and Bob Sokolowski '69.

Reese addressed the crowd, noting that each time he is asked to do something for Yale "I raise my hand as high as I can." While pointing out that he experienced much success while playing football and lacrosse at Yale, including four Ivy League championships, Reese also admitted that "the truth is I lost a lot of big games" -- and he utilized that fact to deliver a message to the seniors.

"In each of those losses, I was always the last person to leave the field," Reese said. "Yes I was heartbroken, but I was proud … [Dealing with adversity] will make you stronger as men."

After the awards were presented, including the selection of sophomore running back Tyler Varga (Kitchener, Ont.) as the team's most valuable player, Joel Smilow '54 addressed the crowd. He too had a message for the seniors, recalling the impression he has had ever since he witnessed Reno and the team gather for the first time in the fall.

"You were part of the birth of something that I think is going to be very exciting," Smilow said.

After thanking the many supporters in the room Reno then delivered a powerful speech, starting with what he and his new staff found when they first began working at Yale last January.

"We found we had a group of guys that worked incredibly hard," Reno said.

While stating that "our goal is to win championships every year", Reno noted that even without a championship to show for this season there were still many signs of progress.

"That's the goal of the next season," Reno said. "Can we take that next step?"

Along those lines, Reno introduced the player who had been elected captain for the 2013 season by his teammates three days earlier -- Palin.

"It's a tremendous honor to be accepted as a leader of men I respect so much," Palin said. "I cannot wait to take the next step with this group of men."

The day ended with the singing of "Bright College Years" led by Yale President-Elect Peter Salovey and Special Assistant to the President/Master of Jonathan Edwards College and Lecturer in English Penny Laurans.


2012 Season Yale Football Team Awards

Ted Blair Award
Given to the most valuable player on the varsity team in memory of Edwin Foster (Ted) Blair '24.
RB Tyler Varga '15 (Kitchener, Ont.)

Jordan Olivar Award
Given to that senior, other than the captain, who, through his devotion to Yale football, has earned the highest respect of his teammates.
DL Chris Dooley '13 (Massapequa, N.Y.)

Woody Knapp Memorial Trophy
Given to that outstanding member of the football team who best typifies the cheerful disposition, leadership qualities, and unselfish devotion to others which characterized Woody's life and accomplishments at Yale.
DB John Powers '13 (Hamden, Conn.)

Robert Gardner Anderson Award
Given to the player who best exemplifies Bob's interest in the sport by combination of skill, spirit and pride in accomplishment.
LB Will McHale '13 (Old Greenwich, Conn.)

Norman S. Hall Memorial Trophy
Given to an individual for outstanding service to Yale football, in memory of Norman Hall '30.
DB Collin Bibb '13 (San Antonio, Texas)

Gregory Dubinetz Memorial Trophy
Given to the lineman who best exemplifies the spirit of Greg Dubinetz as a player and person.  DL Nick Daffin '13 (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Charles Loftus Award
Given to the most valuable freshman.
DB Cole Champion '16 (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)

Chester J. LaRoche Award
Given to that senior who, by his character, academic talents and concern for others, did the most for Yale.
LB Ryan Falbo '13 (Moon Township, Pa.)

Ledyard Mitchell Award
Awarded for proficiency in kicking.
PK Philippe Panico '13 (Boston, Mass.)

Jim Keppel Award
(Offensive Back of the Year)
Given to the offensive back who best exhibited Jim's work ethic, pride and dedication to Yale Football, as well as his ability to enrich the lives of his friends and teammates.
RB Mordecai Cargill '13 (Cleveland, Ohio)

Ryan LoProto Award
(Defensive Back of the Year)
Awarded to the player on the Yale Football Team who best exemplifies Ryan's passion and competitive spirit, skill in the defensive secondary, and devotion to teammates.
DB Kurt Stottlemyer '13 (Bothell, Wash.)

Ted Turner Award
(Offensive Lineman of the Year)
OL Roy Collins '13 (Carbondale, Ill.)

Defensive Lineman of the Year
DL Dylan Drake '13 (Plantation, Fla.)

Hammer of the Year
DE Beau Palin '14 (Oconomowoc, Wisc.)

Specialist of the Year
LB Wes Moyer '12 (Alameda, Calif.)

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity

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