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Pavlansky steps down after 23 years at Canfield

Staff file photo / Neel Madhavan. Mike Pavlansky (right) stands with former Canfield star quarterback Broc Lowry (12) in the aftermath of the Cardinals’ first state championship last year at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

“I enjoyed every minute of it, but it just feels like the right time to move on.”

With that, the longest and most successful coaching stint in Canfield football history has come to an end.

On Tuesday morning, Cardinals head coach Mike Pavlansky met with his players and staff to inform them that he would not return for the 2024 season.

Pavlansky stepped down after guiding the Canfield program for the past 23 years. During his time at the school, Pavlansky led the Cardinals to seven league championships, 13 playoff appearances, five regional title games and a pair of trips to the state finals.

In 2022, Pavlansky brought Canfield its first-ever football state title. The Cardinals went 14-1 in ’22, defeating Bloom-Carroll 35-14 in the Division III championship game in Canton.

Pavlansky steps down with a 183-76 record at Canfield. His overall record of 211-98 includes a two-year stint at Lisbon and three years at Mentor.

Pavlansky retired from teaching at Canfield three years ago.

“I enjoyed every minute of it, I still enjoyed it this year as much as ever, but I just felt like it was time to move on,” Pavlansky said. “The thought of stepping aside began to creep into my mind a few years ago. I didn’t tell myself that 2023 would be the last season. I didn’t just wake up today and say, ‘That’s it.’ There wasn’t anything in particular that led to this decision. It was just a case of having this lingering feeling that the time was right.

“I’ve been truly blessed my entire coaching career to be surrounded by a great staff, great administrators and great young men who have been a huge part of my life. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Pavlansky admits that he will miss “the thrill of Friday nights.” Still, he says it won’t compare to the void he will leave behind when he exits the coaches room and the locker room for a final time.

“I’m going to miss the staff meetings, I’m going to miss the kids,” Pavlansky said. “More than anything, I’m going to miss those behind-the-scenes activities and interactions which make up most of any football season.

“People come out and they see the product on Friday night. They don’t see the strong bonds which develop and mold a team. They don’t see the daily interaction which builds a team into a family. That’s what being a coach is all about.”

Pavlansky has seen many changes since he first began coaching in the early 1980s. Most notably, he says technology has changed the game “for the good.”

“In some ways technology has overtaken the game,” Pavlansky said. “We’re watching game film from the sidelines, helping to correct our mistakes. We’re trading film with a couple of clicks. We’ve progressed in so many ways, and it has made the game better, it has made us better coaches.”

One thing that hasn’t changed over the past four decades?

The kids who play the game.

“Other than being bigger, faster and stronger, the kids today are the same as they were when I first started,” Pavlansky said. “Kids today, they still want to learn, they want to be taught, they want to be guided and they want structure.

“The players I had at Canfield in 2023, they wanted to be coached and they wanted to work hard to achieve success just like the very first group I ever coached.”

Former Warren John F. Kennedy head coach Dom Prologo coached under Pavlansky for more than a decade beginning in 2001. Prologo noted that Pavlansky’s record “speaks for itself, and it says that he’s a hall of fame coach.” Still, Prologo insists that Pavlansky’s greatest accomplishment wasn’t achieved when he hoisted up the state championship trophy last December.

“Mike was completely invested in his players, not from a football perspective, but in terms of what they were like off the field,” Prologo said. “For Mike, his biggest victory was seeing one of his players achieve success once they left the Canfield football program.

“The Canfield football program will move forward. It will succeed. But this isn’t just an end to a great coaching career. This is the end of an era, a very special era.”

Prologo described in detail the “Leadership Council” created under Pavlansky. The council, made up of two sophomores, four juniors and six seniors, was designed to allow player representation when it came to making decisions regarding the football program.

“It was all about instilling leadership, and allowing the players on our team to be responsible for their decision-making and their actions,” Prologo said. “Coach Pavlansky was preparing all of his players to be leaders. He was instilling personal responsibility.”

While at Kennedy, Prologo often preached to his players the importance of “Playing for the K on your helmet.” He admitted that he adopted the idea from Pavlansky, who always insisted that the letter “C” be included on the Canfield uniform.

“Coach Pavlansky always made sure that the players understood what that C represented,” Prologo said. “It was all about the school and the community. For the past 23 years, Canfield football players always understood that they were playing for their school and for the people of Canfield. They represented the town. They knew that they had a duty to make the community proud.

“It wasn’t about wins and losses, it was about teamwork and dedication to each other and to the community. All of the on-field success was a by-product of Coach Pavlansky’s leadership away from the football field.”

Canfield athletic director Greg Cooper described Pavlansky as “the cornerstone of Canfield athletics” and said that Pavlansky’s presence will be sorely missed throughout the district.

“Coach Pav epitomized all of the positive attributes of the Canfield school district,” Cooper said. “He is extremely intelligent, he’s hard-working and he has always been completely committed to his job. He pushed the kids hard, but they respected him for it because they knew his ultimate goal was to always make them better human beings. He is a Canfield treasure.”

Cooper said that himself, along with the school principal and assistant principal will immediately begin the initial process of seeking Pavlansky’s replacement. The position will be advertised both internally and out-of-district.

“We’ll go to great lengths to find the best possible candidate, but it’s always tough to replace a legend,” Cooper said.

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