Prep football: Salmons turns Midland into contender
ONA, W.Va. -- Oh, how the times have changed for the Cabell Midland football team - quickly and drastically - for the better.
Just two years ago, this time, the Knights sat at home following a 3-7 finish in former Coach Chip McMillian's final season. This fall, Midland's season is just starting, and many give Coach Luke Salmons the credit.
"He's amazing," senior running back Lowell Farley said.
The coaching transition wasn't easy on the players, Farley said, but Salmons quickly won the team with his ability to encourage the Knights to find greater success from within.
"I was questionable when he first came in," Farley said. "We started working out, we were like 'Gosh, this guy is serious. He's killing us out there.'
"We knew when we started working hard we could do something, because everybody was putting forth effort that we weren't before. We knew we could do something. For how hard we worked for, we figured we might as well make something out of it, and he put us in that position."
After starting 0-2 last season, Midland rebounded to finish 8-4 and head into 2012 with plenty of optimism.
Salmons, this year, directed the Knights to the program's first 10-0 season, first Mountain State Athletic Conference championship and first No. 1 playoff seed in school history. Midland will open the playoffs to play host to No. 16 Oak Hill.
Like many successful coaches, Salmons credited the team's mindset and effort for the uptick.
"Work," Salmons said. "We work our freaking tails off. They believe in the program and we're a team. That's how we win. At certain positions, we're not overly athletic, so it's a team concept.
"We might have to win 14-13 sometimes, so we're going to be physical and we're going to play hard and we're going be tough, and that's who we got to be at Cabell Midland. That's what type of kids we got, and that's what makes it good."
Perhaps Midland's toughness is a result of players taking on their coach's personality. Salmons won the Hunt Award as the state's top lineman at Ravenswood in 1998 before a successful playing career at Marshall.
"The coaches, they put us through almost like hell in the summer," senior transfer David Gaydosz said. "I've never been through something like that."
What pushed the Knights to physical limits strengthened the team's bond.
"We're all family," Gaydosz said. "We came through adversity. We had some ups and downs this season, but we all push each other because we all look at each other as family and brothers."
That unity, that toughness propelled the Knights to new heights.
"I never realized we would be in this position," Farley said. "When we all met up (Thursday) we were like we're 9-0, we have the chance to be 10-0, and everyone was just ecstatic about it because it's the first opportunity. We're making history basically.
"We set some goals and that was one of them. We've already broken pretty much every single one we set except for state championship."
Assault on that remaining goal begins with Oak Hill.
Salmons instilled the right attitude in the Knights. Now, it's up to the players to build upon the legacy they'll leave.
"These kids are battled tested, so to go to the playoffs with that mindset, it's a pretty great thing," Salmons said.