During the 2021 high school football season, the Buffalo Bills and ADPRO Sports collaborated once again to honor coaches in both the Buffalo and Rochester Regions as a part of the annual High School Coach of the Week program. Over the course of 11 weeks, the program highlighted the coaches for their on-field successes, but also for their off the field contributions and community outreach efforts.
Each respective region had 11 coaches honored, totaling 22 selections across the 2021 campaign. The honorees were all awarded $1,000 grants given directly to their football programs, while the two regions also had respective Coach of the Year selections that were given an additional $1,000 grant. The Buffalo Region's winner was Steve McDuffie of Bennett High School and the Rochester Region's winner was Tyler Winter of the combined Oakfield-Alabama/Elba program.
McDuffie — who was selected as the Buffalo Bills' candidate for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award and is one of 32 nominees heading to the 2022 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas — guided the Bennett Tigers to a brilliant 2021 season. Finishing with an 11-2 record, the Tigers earned their first trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship game and were able to win the program's first-ever regional championship in the process. McDuffie was also able to snap Lancaster's five-year run as Section VI Class AA champions, giving him his first sectional title team since 2016.
As for off the field, McDuffie, as well as his players and staff, have joined forces with YMCA Buffalo-Niagara and the Archie L. Hunter committee, which holds community outreach and mentoring programs. Hunter, a former activist and Buffalo native, has his spirit live on today through the outreach program named in his memory, as well a scholarship program going along with it. The Tigers also work annually with the committee for the MLK Day of Service by volunteering throughout the City of Buffalo.
Leading the Bennett program since 2010, McDuffie has sent several players on to play college football, including his son Isaiah, who's a rookie linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Coach McDuffie was a standout player in his own right, being named an All-Western New York selection for Grover Cleveland High School, then playing at the FBS level for a season at Louisville, before joining the University at Buffalo's program for the next four years during its FCS era (1992-96).
Before coaching at Bennett and directing the Tigers to four divisional championships, McDuffie had coaching stints at Grover Cleveland, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and at the junior college level with Erie Community College.
As for Winter, he was able to lift his Aggies to their first Class D Section V championship in 2021, winning their first 12 games in a 12-1 season. In fact, Winter brought O-A/E over to the 11-on-11 ranks this year after playing 8-man football in his first two seasons at the helm. One of the most balanced teams in New York State, the Aggies scored 50 or more on seven occasions and allowed an average of 14.5 points per game.
En route to its first Class D sectional title, O-A/E also downed 2021 spring sectional champion Avon twice this fall and 2019 sectional champion Notre Dame (Batavia).
Winter is most active within the Elba Central School District, specifically through a fitness lens. He was a major factor in the district's restoration of its fitness center, which is open to students currently in the district, school staff, community members and alumni. Winter also oversees the Student Athletic Association at Elba — a student-run program that helps fundraise for sports teams throughout the district.
Winter was a highly successful high school player as well, as he started at fullback and defensive end for Holley's 8-man team in its run to the 2010 Section V championship game.
Winter got his head coaching career going at a young age, taking over York/Pavilion at just 24 years old. He led the Golden Knights in their first three seasons as a combined program (2015-17), before making the jump to O-A/E before the 2018 campaign. After helping the Aggies win two league championships as an assistant in their 8-man program, he was then named head coach going into the 2020-21 school year. In his first calendar year as head coach in 2021, Winter compiled a 17-3 record.