There was a slew of qualified high school football coaches nominated for the Cleveland Browns coach of the year award.
But in terms of pure coaching, nobody exceeded the efforts of coach Ron Rutt and his team at Bay High School.
Rutt had been an assistant coach for the Rockets during the previous few seasons, including the 2013 campaign in which the team notched only one victory. By flipping the mentality of the program, Rutt led Bay to an 8-5 record and the first playoff win in school history.
"I came in with clear-cut expectations for each and every player, laying out what their roles were supposed to be and how we were going to win games," said Rutt, who also happens to be a Rocket alumnus. "All of that stuff really helped change the culture and get kids believing."
Unlike previous teams at Bay, Rutt employed an offensive and defensive coordinator so he could focus on the big picture and have time to make sure all of his players' needs were being met. The one area where Rutt really took charge was in the offseason conditioning program. He preached to the team games are actually won during the spring in the weight room.
"I treated the team with respect while also joking around with them," Rutt said.
The Rockets won some of their early games in the season and it had a snowball effect. Each good football team has its own, unique catchphrase or mantra, and for the Rockets, it was the word "accounts." When they beat a team, the players would "open an account," like at a casino when you're winning money. "Accounts" became popular on social media and even with the rabid student fan base.
"The players had a hand gesture that went along with accounts and it became one of those inside jokes that really helped the team bond as a whole," Rutt said while chuckling.
Winning teams often feature a star player, and the Rockets certainly had their stud. Nose tackle and offensive guard Matt Benyard earned the defensive MVP of the West Shore Conference. Benyard was a tremendous, physical, hard-nosed kid.
"He really took over some of our games and dominated up front for us," Rutt said.
Rutt helped restore pride in the Bay football program but he hopes the 2014 campaign was only the beginning.
*The Browns will make an additional $4,000 donation to Rutt's high school football program, while the other nine finalists received $2,000 contributions from the franchise to benefit their teams. *
Cleveland completed its fifth consecutive year of the High School Game of the Week again this fall, with PNC returning as the presenting partner. Since the program's conception, more than five million votes have been submitted for weekly matchups posted on ClevelandBrowns.com, with fans deciding which game the Browns should cover. Panel members for game selections included Kevin Jones, Browns staff writer; Dave DeNatale, play-by-play voice for ESPN Cleveland's High School Hysteria game of the week; Jason Gibbs, host of ESPN Cleveland's High School Hysteria Rewind Show and Browns High School Show; and Matt Fontana, studio host of ESPN Cleveland's High School Hysteria.