The high school football season is coming to an end this weekend as the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) championships play out.
Last weekend, Cincinnati St. Xavier started things off with an impressive 44-3 win over defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central. One of the Bombers’ standouts this season has been senior linebacker Matthew Devine who spoke with First Star Football Report about the Bombers championship win, season, and future.
“It’s been an incredible season,” said Devine. “The whole theme of the year was adversity. We didn’t know if we were going to play with all the Covid issues.
“All offseason, especially the captains and I personally, tried to do our individual best. Every day I would find a field or somewhere to workout, and I feel that helped my season a lot because I could continue to work. I never cared about the circumstances as I controlled what I could control.
“I feel our whole team did that. We knew we had a tough schedule this year, and it made us better. So we just tried to do our personal best weekly and ended up with a state championship. It was an honor to be a captain, lead the guys, and being a part of the program the past four years and end it off the right way with a championship.”
Winning a Greater Catholic League and state title allows Devine and his teammates the opportunity to leave a lasting impression and legacy at one of the top prep football programs in the country. What will he remember when it’s time to look back?
“It’ means a lot,” stressed Devine. “Coach (Steve) Specht talks about the legacy of “The Long Blue Line”. Some alumni reached out, and basically, the entire “Long Blue Line” is proud of us in general.
“I feel we made them proud, not just by winning a state championship, but with our effort given all the circumstances. I’m just immensely proud that I’ll be able to return in 20-30 years, look up, and be able to look at the GCL championship banner and the regional and state championship banners, knowing that was our team, that was my year.
“It was great to lead these guys, and it was a team effort. I feel we made the “Long Blue Line” proud because no one cared about their stats. They just cared about winning and staying together and growing as a team every day.”
One adversity Devine shared with many across the country were the setbacks in recruiting with evaluation periods and camps canceled with the coronavirus.
“At first, it was a challenge mentally, not knowing what my future held or what would happen,” explained Devine. “I made tremendous gains in the offseason, losing fat, building muscle, and becoming faster, more agile, and athletic. I was also getting stronger in the weight room. The whole Covid thing did mess things up, but I was glad to talk with coaches, family members, and other mentors. So I took that mindset of controlling what I could control every day, stay the course, and work forward.
While Devine had to wait longer than he’d hoped for, schools took notice of his play, with one of his top schools offering.
“When the Air Force offered, it was one of my favorites and a no brainer, and a dream come true,” he said. “So I’m excited about my future. Air Force is prestigious as it’s one of the academies. Not only is the coaching staff amazing, but the facilities are also incredible, and the culture, tradition, and brotherhood the program has is impressive. Not only is the football aspect impressive, but the academics and what they can do for you in the future is also incredible. There is a “Bolt Brotherhood,” and I’m excited to get to work.”
The Bombers state title win was impressive to those on the outside of the program. However, Devine felt going into the game, the Bombers were ready to play the best game they’ve played.
“We’ve had games all year where the offense was performing well or vise versa,” he explained. “Pickerington Central is a very talented team, but going into the week, the seniors knew this was it.
“I’ve never seen a week where our team was as focused on every sufficient detail. Coach Specht stressed it’s the little things that add up to the big things. All week we did everything right, and we had the focus.
“As a kid, this is what you dream about when you come to St. Xavier. We played a complete game in all facets of the game, and everyone played their personal best.”
While Devine and the country continue to navigate the challenges presented by the coronavirus, he understands his days of walking the halls on North Bend Road will soon come to an end. What will he miss about his days as a Bomber?
“I’m going to miss the brotherhood and coaches the most,” said Devine. “The last week was great, but also very emotional and sentimental. I’m taking some time off to let my body recover before getting back to off-season training. But it’s not the same. There is just something different about putting that jersey on, putting that “X” on, and running out in front of the fans and playing on Friday night.
“I’ve formed a special bond with my teammates and love them like they are my brothers. All the relationships I’ve made, not only with the players but with Coach Specht, position coaches, Coach T (Terrell Williams), our strength coach, each want us to succeed. I couldn’t have asked for a better four years.”
Devine leaves big shoes to fill as the past two seasons; he’s led the Bombers in tackles with a combined total of 207 stops. However, as we’ve seen, the Bombers are always a team to watch as new names get added to the “Long Blue Line,” looking to leave their legacy.