SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- There is often a look of determination among high school football players in August. And then there is Cameron Specht.
The St. Xavier senior slot receiver and punt returner has the poise of a state champion. But there is so much more.
The three-year starter has the look in his eyes of beginning a new journey. One of four captains, he has the serious tone of another mission. Those traits were evident after practice on a late morning the first week of August.
“In the blink of an eye I am a senior,” Specht said. “It really does go quick. I am just trying to embrace every moment, every practice, every snap.”
Every player represents something to the Long Blue Line. Specht, named one of WCPO’s 50 players to watch this spring after a memorable junior year, also shares the language of football with his father, longtime St. X head coach Steve Specht.
Steve, a 1986 St. X graduate, has won three state titles with the Bombers as head coach. The most recent, of course, was 2016 in the most unlikely of paths toward the hardware in Columbus.
The Bombers became the first five-loss team to win an Ohio high school state football title.
Players and coaches admit nothing can top 2016, but the story doesn’t end there for this year’s seniors. Once the Bombers returned to the weight room in January, they turned the page.
The mantra of one week at a time is cliché, but it’s also accurate for a high-profile team rated No. 18 nationally by MaxPreps. St. X opens the season against Hinsdale Central (Illinois) at 5 p.m. Aug. 26 at Princeton High School in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
“Last year I think we had a sour taste in our mouth not winning GCL outright,” Cameron said. “I think that’s one of our goals, is to win the GCL outright.”
It’s that competitive edge which prompts Cameron to wake up his father at 4:15 a.m. for a 6 a.m. workout at school. The love of competition binds them together.
Yet, football has brought them even closer. Cameron is Steve’s youngest son. Hayden Specht, a 2016 St. X graduate, is a sophomore safety at the University of Albany. All three were able to share in the memorable postseason journey last fall.
Hayden flew back home from Albany to watch the state final at Ohio Stadium in December. He wouldn't have missed it for the world.
"Don't think for a second I wasn't the first one hopping the fence as the clock hit zero," Hayden said.
Hayden admits you couldn't write a better script for the Bombers or for his dad and brother last season. He enjoys all the St. X games.
“It’s awesome,” said Cameron, who turns 18 Aug. 25.
“Everybody asks if there is a lot of pressure on me being coach’s son but I don’t really feel that. I know a lot of coaches look for me to be an extension of him with the playbook and knowing where everybody should be. I don’t really feel the pressure but it’s awesome having him on the sideline because I know if I make a great play he will be the first one there to congratulate me but at the same time he will be the first one there to get on me if I do something wrong so I love it. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Cameron, who is 5 feet 7 and 155 pounds, set the school’s single-season receptions mark (68) last season. He's an integral part of the Bombers' spread offense especially with bubble screens.
"He brings enthusiasm and toughness," St. X Offensive Coordinator Bob Klotz said. "He is really good in tight spaces."
Cameron has excellent hands. He's a tireless worker in conditioning. He's not afraid to pass block either. That's earned plenty of respect from his teammates.
“I have so much trust in him,” said St. X senior quarterback Chase Wolf, who is verbally committed to Wisconsin.
“Anywhere I put the ball he will get it. He never gives up. He’s one of the quickest guys on the team.”
Wolf and Cameron Specht studied plenty of film on their iPads at school during free time this past winter.
They not only pulled up the playoff highlights but took to the Berning Gymnasium floor after school and practiced 15-20 routes to get their timing down.
When the weather was warmer, they went outside and practiced on the grass surface if the lacrosse team was practicing on Ballaban Field. It was all an effort to practice bubble plays and fine-tune sharper routes.
“Chase and I are on a great page,” Cameron said. “We know each other like the back of our hand so it’s been great.”
Maybe the most valuable asset is his work on special teams for the Bombers. Cameron doesn’t think when he’s returning punts. He lets the adrenaline take over.
“I think the one thing that has separated Cameron is his ability to return punts,” Steve Specht said. “He’s fearless. I think that’s the most difficult thing in the game of football to do. You’ve got to be fearless you have to have great hand-eye coordination which he does. And you have to be willing to take a hit.”
Cameron, who made his varsity debut as a freshman, is willing to lay it on the line for the Bombers. Now, he’s eager to prove that to college programs. Butler University offered him and he’s also interested in Dayton and Holy Cross.
Hayden said his brother always plays with a chip on his shoulder in high school. He thrives on the competition.
"Yeah he is undersized, but that's not going stop him from tearing defenses apart inside and out," Hayden said.
The endorsements are plenty and they are valid. Just ask the Bombers' opponents.
“Don’t look at him,” Steve Specht said. “Watch his film. Don’t just watch a couple clips of his film but watch a lot of it. The more you watch of him the more he grows on you because he doesn’t quit. He’s not physically imposing and he’s not a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy but he’s quicker than he is fast and he makes people miss. He’s a difference maker.”