Browns recognize 13 coaching nominees for High School Coach of the Year

All 13 coaches will be recognized with an on-field ceremony at halftime Sunday of the Browns’ game at FirstEnergy Stadium, and the winner will receive $5,000 for their high school football program and a custom jersey


The Browns are proud to recognize 13 high school coaches from Northeast Ohio who are candidates to win the Browns' High School Coach of the Year award after exemplifying top-tier leadership during the 2021 high school football season.

The Browns High School Coach of the Year award is based on a coach's overall body of work during the regular season and postseason, as well as character and community involvement, after being featured in the Cleveland Browns High School Game of the Week.

All 13 coaches will be recognized with an on-field ceremony at halftime Sunday of the Browns' game at FirstEnergy Stadium. The winner, which will also be announced at halftime, will receive $5,000 for their high school football program and a custom jersey. He will also be recognized as the 2021 Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year nominee.

Matt Gray

School: Mentor

2021 Record:5-6

"In a season full of adversity and injuries to the Cardinals Matt kept the team focused and playing at a high level. At points of the season we were down 7 starters and were starting a freshman at quarterback. He kept the team on track, winning the final 2 games of the season." - Mentor Athletic Director Jeff Cassella

Tim Budd

School: Jackson (Massillon)

2021 Record: 9-2

"Coach Budd runs a great program from K-12. He and his staff have created a lot of interest in football throughout the community. His youth camp had over 500+ kids attend. The number of football players at every level are extremely high with 40+ 8th graders, 40+ 9th graders and 80 on the JV/Varsity roster. Coach Budd does a great job of not only coaching the team blocking/tackling and schemes, but also life skills. His athletes leave Jackson High School better people from being a part of his program." - Jackson Athletic Director Tim Budd

Larry Laird

School: Medina

2021 Record: 10-0

"Head Coach Larry Laird has been the leader of one of the most special football seasons to date in Medina High School history. Coach Laird led this year's team to the school's first 10-0 undefeated regular season in its football history. Not only are the Battling Bees undefeated, but they were also selected as the #1 team in the final AP poll in Division I in the state of Ohio. His leadership, knowledge, and — most importantly — his ability to empower his coaching staff and players is what sets him apart from others. He is able to adapt his system based on the personnel he has. Coach Laird is able to put his players and coaches in positions to succeed based on their skills. His ability to transfer his confidence in them and make them believe is second to none." - Medina Athletic Director Todd Hodkey

Tom Lombardo

School: St. Edward

2021 Record: 11-1

"Coach Lombardo has amassed a 17-3 record in two seasons and has been ranked Top 5 in the state for Division I for the last two years. His tireless efforts week in and week out has earned him the highest respect amongst his fellow head coaches. Year in and year out he sends (on average) 10 seniors to play college football." - St. Edward Athletic Director Kevin Hickman

Robert Nickol

School: Saint Vincent Saint Mary

2021 Record: 4-7

Coaching achievements: Coach Nickol led the Irish to the playoffs in 2019 and 2020, capturing two Regional appearances with a career record of 24-16 at STVM.

Charles Saulter

School: Bedford

2021 Record: 6-4

Coaching achievements: In 2019, took over a team that was 1-9 prior and went 5-5 in inaugural season, losing two games by a total of three points. Bedford finished fourth in the Lake Erie League. In 2020, as high schools navigated through the pandemic, Bedford went 4-4 and hosted and won a playoff game, the first since a playoff win in 2017. In 2021, Bedford was able to go 6-4, while going undefeated in LEL.

Dan Ifft

School: Dover
2021 Record: 9-0

"Dan Ifft needs no introduction to football fans in Tuscarawas County and most of northeast Ohio. His integrity, professionalism and program success precede him. Under his leadership, Dover's football program has been cemented as one of the premier public school football programs in Division III in the state--qualifying for the playoffs 20 of the 27 years of his tenure. His loyalty and influence in the school and community have been both a unifying factor and a tremendous source of pride for the residents of Dover." - Dover Athletic Director Tim McCrate

Anthony Gotto

School: Barberton

2021 Record: 9-1

"Coach Gotto took over a football program that had a rich history, including a 1947 State Championship. But the program had fallen on tough times with decreasing numbers and losing seasons. After a number of coaching changes during that span, the program was looking for some stability and a breath of fresh air. Coach Gotto came in and one of the first things he did was to get students who were in our building to come out and be part of the program to help with numbers. Between the increase in numbers and a special freshman class his first year as head coach he was able to get the program to head in the right direction. The team has qualified for the OHSAA Playoffs three of the last four years under Coach Gotto's tenure as the head coach of the Magics." - Barberton Athletic Director John Sabol

Jeff Grubich

School: Kenston

2021 Record: 11-1

"Coach Grubich led a hardworking staff and group of players into an off-season that required much dedication. It can honestly be said that he and his coaches take it to another level with their time commitment not only in-season but in the off-season managing a group of student-athletes who want to be coached. Through it all, Coach Grubich has shown the utmost character and led this family through the storm." - Kenston Athletic Director Reid Guarnieri

Tom DeLuca

School: Olmsted Falls

2021 Record: 8-2

"I have had the pleasure of working with Coach DeLuca for the past nine years. During that time I observed growth and development of all areas of student-centered achievement and success. He has remained true to who he is, a strong and driven leader who believes that all students and student-athletes can succeed whether in the classroom, on the football field, or with the student's other hobbies and interests. Coach DeLuca loves to compete and this brings out the very best in all of our athletes." - Olmsted Falls Athletic Director Rob Coxon

Jason Ward

School: Columbia

2021 Record: 9-1

"Jason is the type of coach you would want your own kids to be coached by. He truly is a role model for the young men. Jason preaches family to the team and players on a daily basis. Jason has a great relationship with his players, past and present. Players are always coming back to see him and wanting to coach for him. Jason has had many opportunities to leave Columbia for bigger schools, but has chosen to finish what he has started here. His dedication and loyalty to Columbia High School can not be matched." - Columbia Athletic Director Jeff Jump

Mac Stephens

School: Cleveland Heights

2021 Record: 8-2

"Coach Mac is one of the best human beings I have encountered in my lifetime. He goes over and beyond not just for our players but kids all over Northeast ohio. Annually, he helps more than 10 of our seniors earn scholarships to continue their academic and athletic careers to college. Many of our players would not have the opportunity financially to attend college if this wasn't the case. In addition to our players, he assists other area kids in the same process — whether it's getting to know them through the speed and strength training he provides, the kids reaching out themselves or coaches who ask for assistance in this process. I have never heard him say no to helping anyone. He is a man of great character and integrity." - Cleveland Heights Athletic Director Joe D'Amato

Mike Elder

School: Avon

2021 Record: 8-2

"Coach Elder's record and success on the field is well documented. Avon is one of the most successful closed enrolled public school programs in the state, but more importantly is what he does for our young men and our community. He is much more about the development of our athletes as people than as football players. He has changed the culture of our athletics and academics at Avon. He is so much more than a football coach." - Avon Athletic Director Erich Frombach