Roscoe wanting JFK days of old

WARREN – Michael Roscoe had no idea that his father, Joe, a 1987 John F. Kennedy graduate, played against his current coach, Jeff Bayuk, when Bayuk coached at Canfield in the late 1980s.

“I’ll have to ask him and my dad about that,” said a curious Michael Roscoe. “He will not tell me anything. I have to ask him to tell me stories.”

While that tidbit of information slipped past Michael, the lineage created by the players who came before him certainly did not. Michael grew up in Warren and is well aware of the state championship in 1991, the runner-up finish in 2006 and all the other accolades of John F. Kennedy. If for some reason he forgets, there’s a big sign next to Kennedy’s practice field with the history of the program scripted across it.

All of that is part of the reason Michael, the returning starter at quarterback, is determined to straighten things out after a rough 2-8 season last year.

“I grew up watching JFK, and we had some great teams in the early 2000s, especially the team that went to state,” he said. “I always looked up to them. Now it’s my senior year. I’ve been working for this ever since I was in second grade, so it means a lot to me. Last year was really disappointing – 2-8 is disappointing at JFK. We have such a rich tradition of winning.”

A down season can hurt a program, especially when the former coaching staff is let go and a new system is put in place. Luckily, Bayuk has been in that situation before, a couple times actually. He sparked turnarounds at Hubbard and Campbell before a brief retirement. He understands what needs to be done to revitalize the Eagles, and he said a return to the glory days is more about the kids’ trust in each than it is them becoming familiar with a new staff or scheme.

“Everybody says, ‘Oh, did they buy into what you’re saying?’ ” Bayuk said. “You need to get the kids to buy into themselves. When you get into a situation where maybe you hadn’t had success the year before, it’s a matter of getting them to believe in themselves. And I think that’s the most rewarding part of coaching. Sure I’d love to win a state championship and get into the playoffs every year, but there’s really something to be said about watching kids work themselves out of trouble.

“I don’t think I’m trying to sell them on anything but believing in themselves. If I can convince them to do that, and our coaches can convince them into doing that, heck, all they need us to do is make a couple decent calls and they’ll take care of matters themselves.”

Michael is at the center of that process. The senior dual-threat quarterback thrived despite a losing season in 2013. He rushed 138 times for 722 yards (5.2 average) and 12 TDs and completed 108 of 198 passes for 1,519 yards (151.8 per game) and seven touchdowns.

As nice as those numbers look, Roscoe agrees with Bayuk that the Eagles’ confidence is more important than how many returning starters are back or the amount of talent that’s on the field.

Even though last season didn’t go particularly well, Roscoe said he sees the belief in the eyes of his teammates.

“I really think we have a great group of kids in my class,” he said. “We have great chemistry. Our eighth grade year, we did really well. It seems like when we have control of our team, we seem to have success. We’ve been talking about our senior year since we were in seventh grade. We really think with our class leading the team, we can have something special this year.”

Pretty much any senior returning quarterback will say similar words, but Bayuk, who has coached three different schools to the playoffs during his 24 years of coaching, feels equally confident. Most of his faith is because of Roscoe, who Bayuk said has much more than just physical talent.

“I knew he was coming back, and I knew he was a good football player,” said Bayuk of what he knew about Roscoe before he was hired this past spring, “but I have found out since then that he has some great leadership qualities, and he has a lot of football savvy. He’s got football sense.

“Any coach will tell you that having a quarterback who’s a leader and that the kids look up to and who’s a great student, having a kid like that be one of the leaders of your team is invaluable. You can’t put a price on that.”

A return to the good old days would be enough for Roscoe and Kennedy.