After Season of Struggle, Football Highlights its Best

True To His Number
Senior safety Tanner Lee (center) pursues the ball during Harvard-Yale 2017. Lee was named Most Valuable Player and earned the Henry H. Lamar Award for dedication to the football program last weekend.

Six Harvard football players earned All-Ivy recognition last week, with juniors Charlie Booker III and Justice Shelton-Mosley landing on the first team as a running back and return specialist, respectively.

Three seniors made the All-Ivy second team. Safety Tanner Lee, linebacker Luke Hutton, and defensive tackle Stone Hart grabbed the honor after anchoring a defense that held opponents to 20.9 points per game.

Junior defensive tackle Richie Ryan rounded out the defensive prizes with an All-Ivy honorable mention. And Shelton-Mosley nabbed an honorable mention at wide receiver, too.

At the end of each season, all Ancient Eight coaches vote on the All-Ivy honors. The first and second teams each hold around 27 players—12 on offense, 12 on defense, and three on special teams. Coaches select another three dozen athletes as honorable mentions.

Last week, the Crimson also awarded internal prizes at an end-of-season banquet. Teammates named Lee as the Most Valuable Player. The safety also earned the Henry H. Lamar Award for dedication to the program. Previously, no Harvard player had claimed both prizes in the same season.

Last season, Lee gained an honorable mention after leading the Crimson with four interceptions. In 2017, he started all 10 games at safety and logged 55 tackles.

“There was so much to play for this year,” Lee said. “I’ve grown a lot.”

Several other defensive players earned team-wide recognition. Senior defensive tackle Tristan Tahmaseb won the Joseph E. Wolf Award as the top interior lineman, Hutton won the Robert F. Kennedy Award for desire and determination, and senior cornerback Raishaun McGhee won the William Paine LaCroix Trophy for enthusiasm, sportsmanship, and loyalty.

Senior tight end Jake Barann was the sole prize winner on offense. He received the Joseph Restic Award for leadership, scholarship, and integrity.

The defensive imbalance of awards reflected the youth of the offense. In 2017, many of the team leaders played on the defense. Meanwhile, most high-impact offensive players—including the top wide receiver, rusher, and passer—will return for 2018.

“On offense, we’re returning a bunch of guys,” Lee said. “[Quarterback Jake Smith] will be better after another year of playing against our defense.”

The awards offered some consolation after a trying season. Bedeviled by injuries, the Crimson stumbled to a 5-5 record and a fifth-place finish in the conference. Meanwhile, Yale rebounded from a 3-7 campaign in 2016 to top the Ancient Eight. Columbia and Dartmouth followed in second.

The All-Ivy honors bore out this hierarchy, as the Bulldogs led all programs with eight first-team selections. Freshman running back Zane Dudek made headlines as the unanimous Rookie of the Year. Prior to 2017, no freshman had ever led the Ancient Eight in rushing or earned a unanimous spot on the All-Ivy first team. Dudek, who totaled 1,133 yards on 7.1 yards per carry, achieved both feats. He slotted second in the FCS with 15 rushing touchdowns.

For Columbia, coach Al Bagnoli stole the show. He received Coach of the Year after marshaling his team to an 8-2 record. He came out of retirement to lead the bumbling Lions to a 2-8 finish, and then a 3-7 finish, before this year’s breakout.

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