St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht has garnered a reputation across the Tri-state area and the Buckeye State as being one of the best all-around high school coaches.
Winning the game is important to him, but not as much as shaping the young men that play under him.
After winning the Ohio Division I state title in 2007, the Bombers had to deal with a big turnover and key injuries in '08 and finished 4-6.
We caught up with the coach to talk about last season, the year ahead and everything football:
Q: Last season you had one of the biggest turnovers in recent memory and suffered some injuries to key players, how does the help your outlook last season?
A: The biggest thing last season taught our kids was how to deal with adversity. Finishing 4-6 may look a little rough on paper, but we lost 10 of 11 starters on offense along with nine of 11 on defense.
Injuries are a part of the game and we had our fair share last season, but our kids never made excuses and played as hard as they could. We were in all but one game and could have made the playoffs if we won our final game.
Looking back, we lost three games by a total of six points. Those six points would have put us at 7-3 with a home round opener in the playoffs. My point is simply that we battled adversity and still plated hard in every game.
I hope our kids were able to see past the record into the good the season brought. We achieved the mission of the program. We just came up a little short on the scoreboard. The biggest positive is that with all of the injuries we were able to play a lot of kids that are returning this season. That is a big plus going into '09.
Q: Luke Massa, who missed most of last year with injuries, is sort of flying under the radar a bit heading into his senior season? Where do you rank him against other quarterbacks in the city and those that have come before him in the program?
A: We will see some great quarterback play in the city this year. I don't know that it's fair to rank kids or make comparisons, but what I do know is that I wouldn't trade Luke for anyone in country.
He's smart, studies the game and leads by example. He's an extremely accurate QB and makes great decisions. Luke is still growing into his body and his best football lies ahead.
You will see Luke's continued development well into his years at UC. He is far from a finished product. Obviously the injury hurt last season, but he never complained. Instead he worked through the injury and learned what he could from the sidelines. I believe watching the game from the sideline will only help his development.
Q: You guys have more numbers than nearly every school in the city, what makes your program so unique?
A: I don't know that what we do is so unique or different from what other programs want to accomplish. I don't believe in cutting a young man that is willing to work as hard as he can and do everything asked of him. Kids cut themselves by failing to do the right things or show up for off-season conditioning.
A team in any sport finds individuals willing to sacrifice for a bigger purpose. I believe our kids buy into that philosophy and simply want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We play the game to compete, but I think the bigger picture is to teach these kids life lessons that transcend the game.
Ultimately it comes down to a St. Xavier administration giving me the support I need to run the program, the parents giving us the support we need to coach the kids, the coaches giving the kids the support they need to become better human beings and the kids giving one another the support they need to grow as a team. This isn't revolutionary...we simply try to live this philosophy as best we can.
Q: The GCL South is often as regarded as one of the nation's best leagues. What makes it so special?
A: Football is a big part of the culture in Greater Cincinnati. All four of the GCL South schools are blessed with talented kids that have grown up in communities that have lived the football culture.
Kids grow up dreaming of playing under the lights for these schools and have worked hard through the youth programs to be a part of the league. The youth programs have developed over the years and continue to develop solid football players that we see playing for our teams.
Q: What would you tell a young coach who wanted to follow in your footsteps about coaching?
A: It's important to get into coaching because you love kids and want to see them grow as human beings. If a young coach is only concerned about the X's and O's and winning football games, I don't think High School football is where he needs to be.
Don't get me wrong, I want to win as bad as the next guy, but I think it's more important to keep it in perspective. Coaching is about teaching and helping to form lives. It isn't about wins and losses.
Choose a career path, love what you do and work as hard as you can to be the best you can at that job. If you do this, you'll never work a day in your life. If you choose to teach, remember that it's got to be about the kids and not about you.
Q: The season starts with Colerain once again and it appears as if that match-up will continue for years to come. How does the Colerain rivalry compare to those established in the GCL? What do you respect most about their program?
A: Outside of the GCL, I always felt the Colerain/St. X game was one of the great rivalries in the city. Unfortunately, the Harbin system has changed the landscape somewhat over the years and you no longer see some of the great public vs. private match-ups.
The opportunity to renew the rivalry Week Three in 2011 and beyond is something both Tom Bolden and I have discussed for awhile. We've played each other so many times at Nippert or Paul Brown in the past four-five years that I believe we both feel it would be great to play in front of a packed crowd at both St. Xavier and Colerain.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Bolden as a coach and a person and consider him a good friend. I believe he keeps the game in perspective and coaches his kids to compete and play the game the right way as hard as they can. They are always well coached and disciplined and play to the whistle.
Regardless of the score, at the end of the games you always see two teams congratulating one another on a great game played with passion and heart. I believe this series represents everything good about high school football.
Q: What they factors are going to be the biggest key to your team's success in the year ahead?
A: The biggest factor will be getting our kids to continue to work to improve on a daily basis.
We have some holes to fill on both sides of the ball and I expect our senior class to continue to lead this team and fills the voids throughout preseason.
I'd love to give you the strengths of the team, but at this point we only have weaknesses we need to improve upon. If we continue to work hard and do the best we can, the voids will clear and the weaknesses will fade.