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Eldred football banquet lauds past season and augurs future success; Conklin chosen as MVP

By RICHARD A. ROSS

GLEN SPEY, NY — Football may be a game to some, but to the Eldred community, the value of the program looms large as a medium for strong local pride. During the 35-year tenure of coach Frank Kean, Eldred football has provided something of even greater value, a wholesome activity for the development of character and life skills that players carry with them after their departure from the gridiron and the school.

Looking back over this past season, as well as forward to the next one, was very much on the mind of Kean, his players and their parents as the Eldred football community gathered for its 10th annual football banquet on November 20.

This year’s festivities were held at DiMatteo’s Restaurant. With slides from photographer Michael Harripersad displaying memories from the season, players, parents and coaches gathered at tables and listened to a welcome from booster club president Vicky Henry.

Following dinner, this writer elaborated on a fall-awards theme about the true meaning of success and how the outstanding efforts of the Eldred football team met those standards this season. With a core of juniors ready to lead the vanguard for next year’s campaign, Eldred’s road to success looks promising as the Yellow Jackets seek to win back the division and Section Nine titles that they lost to Chester this year.

Cheerleading coach Jen O’Neill introduced her squad, which came forward to receive flowers and accolades.

That brought Kean to the podium to introduce his modified, junior varsity and varsity players. As each player’s name was called, Kean offered words of praise and encouragement, prior to giving each recipient a team trophy and a framed photograph.

“Coming into the season with only four seniors, we were looking for leadership,” said Kean, who expressed his thanks to his oldest players for providing that mentorship, which helped guide the young team to a 5-4 season.

“I’m very proud of the way you played and acted,” said Kean. referring to his entire squad. He noted that his modified team had grown immensely and that the Eldred program, which has become a model of developmental improvement, starting with Pop Warner right on through junior varsity to the varsity level, has been responsible for the ongoing success that has led to a pair of Section Nine titles during the past four years.

Noting the difficulty of the schedule, Kean said, “You have to play up every week.” The team’s rebounding from a 19-0 deficit against Livingston Manor/Roscoe was a testament to its character and resilience. “I’ll miss this when I’m done,” said Kean, who plans to retire after next season.

Assistant coach John LiGreci compared coaching at Eldred with his former tenure in a triple A school in Staten Island. “You have to do a lot more with less,” he said. “We’ve won two titles, despite being one of the smallest schools in New York State. Our kids give 150 percent,” he said. He added praise for tackle Matt Puzio, running back Ian Halloran, kicker/running back Bobby Warden and quarterback Bryan Henry.

Kean added his laudatory comments as he called forth each member of the varsity squad.

Cody Conklin was named this year’s MVP. Conklin was the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game in the Section Nine Class D championship game.

The work toward next year’s success begins with weight training to prepare for next year’s frays.

TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Eldred football coach Frank Kean lauds the efforts of his players during this past season and offers a prescription for success for 2009, his final year of coaching. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Senior Cody Conklin, standing, left, with Dave Coates, Section 9 Football Coordinator, was named as the team’s Most Valuable Player by nearly a unanimous vote from the Eldred players. Conklin won the Most Outstanding Defensive Player Plaque at this year’s Class D championship game. (Click for larger version)