Not every conversation with a high school football coach this time of year deals with X’s and O’s. Sometimes, you go a little bit deeper.
To that end, here are a few comments I’ve culled from recent interviews with area coaches that touched on subjects a little bit outside the box:
n Steve Edwards Jr. enters his 24th season at George Washington, easily making him the dean of coaches among Kanawha Valley schools, as well as the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
Edwards, who took over as GW coach in 1996 — the year after the Patriots broke a 24-game losing streak — has led 16 of his last 20 teams into the state Class AAA playoffs and twice he’s taken the Patriots to the Super Six state finals at Wheeling Island Stadium.
He now stands fourth on Kanawha County’s all-time coaching wins list with a 162-98 career record, and one more win ties him for third place with Joe Cowley, who won 163 games in 33 seasons at Herbert Hoover and Nitro. The late Dick Whitman (DuPont and Riverside) leads with 181 victories.
All of those are solid accomplishments for Edwards, but one of his proudest achievements is that he almost always gets his teams to play their hardest. That’s especially true in home games; at Steve Edwards Sr. Field, the on-campus facility named after his late father, Edwards has won 44 of 61 games (72.1 percent) and is 6-1 there in playoff games.
Edwards has been around long enough to know that regardless of a team’s talent level, if the coach can’t get his players to give their best effort, it’s not a pleasant place.
“If your team’s not playing hard through all four quarters,’’ Edwards once said, “then you’re not coaching football at that point. You’re coaching feelings and spirits, and in my opinion, you don’t want to get into that situation.’’
n Where to start with Capital coach Jon Carpenter? A free spirit if there ever was one. You’re never quite sure what’s going to come out of his mouth before, during or after a game.
A few years ago, while tracking him down on the phone as he arrived at University of Charleston Stadium for practice, he spotted the unusual-looking Google Maps Street View Car touring the neighborhood to take imagery for its website. Carpenter interrupted the conversation about his team, excitedly blurting out something like:
“Look, over there! It’s the Google Car! There it goes! Man, it looks like it has a toilet on top!’’
Good luck resuming a normal interview after that.
Carpenter, however, remains somewhat grounded, thanks in large part to his family, his wife Leslie, and the program’s support system, which also includes Kristie Kinney, wife of assistant coach JR Kinney and the school’s cheerleading coach. Carpenter admitted as much one time.
“I’ve got a great wife, No. 1,’’ he said. “I don’t know why she don’t throw me out. And I’ve got a great bunch of coaches. Kristie Kinney takes care of me, too. That’s what the NASCAR drivers do, you know. They thank all their sponsors.’’
n Craig Snyder begins his 20th season at Winfield, and his eighth as head coach. He was at Winfield Middle School for four years, then worked as an assistant coach for the Generals varsity.
He’s seen a lot of seasons come and go, and has seen a lot of players come up through the system and get on with their life’s work. Snyder wants his players to embrace the camaraderie and the time they spend in high school football, because it’s a fleeting portion of their lives. And for his part, he wants to let his kids be kids.
“I want them to try and enjoy high school football,’’ Snyder said. “I want the kids to learn and understand and just appreciate being a high school football player. It’s a great experience and I want them to make the most of it, and not go around worrying about where they’re going to play. Just try to keep it in perspective.’’
n At the other end of the spectrum, Cabell Midland coach Luke Salmons worries about his sport and the growing reputation it’s getting concerning concussions and CTE, a degenerative brain disorder associated with repetitive head trauma.
“Football is under attack everywhere,’’ Salmons said recently. “People are getting a bad taste in their mouth with safety concerns, even in youth and middle school football. So we’re trying to do a lot more than build trust here. I get my kids involved in practice one day a week and play flag football.’’