SILVER SPRING, Md. - For three seasons, 27 games and 1,079 days, the John F. Kennedy High School Cavaliers football team didn't win a single game. During this time period, the seniors on this team had gone their entire high school career without a victory – even when they were on the junior varsity squad.
“Sometimes it did cross my mind to quit, but I couldn't do it with my brothers,” said linebacker Joshua Brown.
“Nobody wants to go through that, but you just keep running, keep hoping for a win until you get it,” said wide receiver and safety Habaccuc Regnis.
“They just kept coming out every week no matter what was happening,” said Kennedy head coach Dan Boyko. “No matter that they lost, how many times they lost, they just kept coming out.”
Finally, their hard work and persistence was rewarded this year on Sept. 15. Kennedy defeated Northwood 48-12 for their first win since Oct. 2, 2014.
“It was totally out of control,” Boyko said. “It was like we had won the state championship up at Ravens stadium.”
As the clock counted down to a win, there were feelings of elation, relief and disbelief. On the bus ride home, it was like a party.
“It was like homecoming and prom mixed together,” said one player.
“Even our bus driver on the way home, she was out of control, and her kid plays for another high school here in the county,” said Boyko.
Coach Boyko has only known winning. He was part of Maryland state champion coaching staffs at Damascus and Good Counsel. He was thrust into the job at Kennedy when his longtime friend and colleague Dan Makosy passed away after a long battle with colon cancer last November.
Boyko was only going to stay until the end of the season and pass the team on to a permanent head coach. But he decided to stay because of Kennedy's “Original 18.”
“We didn't have a lot of kids come out for the team,” he said. “We were 18 kids on the team … You can't practice very well with 18 guys.”
To turn around a program that hasn't won a game in years and only had 18 players on the team, you have to go recruit.
“We walked the hallway," Boyko said. "I looked at the athletes, I looked at the guys who played basketball, I looked at the guys who played the other sports."
He was making the pitch to kids who had never played football, and asking them to join a team that they had never seen win a game.
“It wasn't the easiest sell,” said Boyko. “The overwhelming majority of these kids here did not grow up with football. They did not play football. There is a very international student body here, so they are just learning the game.”
The key to the turnaround was a culture change that began with those 18 players who never quit, and they taught their new teammates how to play as a team and build a program. It’s a program they hope has only begun to win.
“Finally our hard work is paying off for us,” another player said. “Seeing all these kids come out supporting the team and hopefully be the future of the program. So that is the goal – build a program.”
Coach Boyko has five championship rings, but he said building this Kennedy program from zero wins in three years to a now-growing program, he takes more pride in this team than any of his state championship teams.