ONA — Gary Salmons’ family views him as a bit of a ham, and that’s exactly what he was concerned about on Tuesday.
The father of Cabell Midland High School football coach Luke Salmons inspected one of the hams a player’s parent brought by Tuesday to feed the more-than-100-member team on Thanksgiving. He showed off the enormous portable grill/oven he uses to make everything from hot dogs to biscuits just outside the Knights’ locker room.
Nearby, Luke Salmons smiled. This was just another day in the life of the team within a team that makes Knights football go.
It’s state semifinal week. No. 2 Cabell Midland (12-0) plays No. 3 Spring Valley (11-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the right to play in the state championship game Dec. 7 at Wheeling Island Stadium against the victor of the other semifinal featuring top-seeded Martinsburg (12-0) and No. 4 Parkersburg South (11-1).
The Knights practice on Thanksgiving Day. Every minute of preparation is needed to get ready for the Timberwolves, who have reached the state final each of the last three seasons. Football, however, doesn’t take precedent over family. The players need to eat, and on turkey day they will feast. Gary Salmons had a plan for turkeys marinating in a concoction of salt, sugar, peppercorns and other secret ingredients.
“I’m concerned it might ruin my turkey gravy,” Gary Salmons said. “I like turkey gravy. I just don’t know how this brine is going to affect it.”
Into the football coaches office walked Mason Salmons, 11, and Jake Salmons, 8. Mason is Cabell Midland’s ballboy. Jake is the water boy. Both brothers are on the sideline for every game.
“I like it because I get to be close to the players,” Mason said. “I like being with the team.”
So does Jake.
“I like being close to the football boys,” Jake said. “Being on the sideline is fun.”
The boys’ mom, Amanda, stood nearby with their younger brothers Bo, 1, and Wade, 3 months. Wade was born into this football family on the first day of football practice.
Bo was enamored with a set of keys used to drive the Gator, a four-wheeled buggy to transport equipment. Gary usually drives it and when he’s not, Jason Salmons, Luke’s brother, does. Jason has been involved with the Cabell Midland program since his brother became coach nine years ago.
“I like being close to my family,” Jason Salmons said. “I like football and I like to see the boys develop. These seniors, to see them come along from their freshman year to be undefeated is a lot of fun. It’s very satisfying.”
Amanda Salmons met her husband while both were students at Marshall University, where Luke was a standout offensive lineman. When she married him, she also became wedded to football. Unlike many football wives, however, Amanda doesn’t go long periods without seeing her husband.
Amanda helps with pregame meals, shirt orders, organization and other tasks to free up the coaching staff to concentrate on football. She said a large, helpful group of parents are a blessing in accomplishing all the tasks needed in a program with a roster the size of most major college programs.
“It’s fun for me to be around my boys and the program,” said Amanda Salmons, in her 14th year of helping Luke, who coached at Lawrence County before taking the Cabell Midland job in 2011. “So much time is involved that this is a good way to be with Luke and do things as a family.”
Handling four children is difficult enough. Somehow, Amanda Salmons also helps 100 others. She said the biggest challenge is time management, as Mason and Luke also play youth football and basketball, bring home school work and deal with everything any other students does.
Luke Salmons said he appreciates the assistance his family offers and he realizes not many coaches have such a support system.
“It’s important any time you can share something with your family,” Luke Salmons said as Gary walked by carrying two trash cans to wash. “They’ve all been very supportive. I want our players see that. We’re all very close. Our coaching staff is like this. Their families are here and everybody wants everybody to be good. When something needs done, somebody does it.”
Coaching often requires long days and nights, scouting, planning, watching film, practicing and playing. Luke Salmons stresses that his coaches and players cherish family time.
“The most important thing is that they’re with their families,” he said of his assistants and players. “They’re all on board and that makes this a whole lot easier.”
Gary Salmons walked back by carrying the clean trash cans on his way to attend to the players’ uniforms. Luke Salmons smiled again.
“You know, whether you’re 40, 30, 20 or 10, you always want your dad’s approval,” Luke Salmons said.
He certainly has that.
“When he graduated from Marshall, Luke still wasn’t sure of what he wanted to do,” Gary Salmons said. “I told him he should coach. That’s what he wanted to do. That’s what he liked. Now, he’s doing it.”
With the help of his family, Salmons is coaching well.