Stranded in a bus on the side of U.S. 119 in Cumberland on the way to a football game at Harlan High School, the South Floyd football team probably felt luck was not on their side Friday afternoon.
As it turned out, their luck wasn’t as bad as they thought, especially when Jerry Edwards passed by on his way to a game at Harlan County High School.
Edwards has helped high school and middle school sports teams in Harlan County since the 1970s, when he was a student manager/trainer at Lynch High School, and then at Alice Lloyd College before beginning a long teaching and coaching career.
“I was headed to the Harlan County game when I came through town in Cumberland and noticed a Floyd County bus,” Edwards said. “They said the bus was running hot, so I contacted (transportation coordinator) David Fields in Cumberland and asked if I could get two gallons of anti freeze. I took it down there, but it still wouldn’t crank up. Then I contacted Jeff Mills (at the bus garage) and then (county transportation director) Mike Cox and asked if it was possible for me to take a bus and transport them to Harlan. They both said it was OK, so I went to Lynch and got my bus and loaded them up and took them to Harlan, then I went to the Harlan County game.”
Edwards’ act of kindness earned a mention on the WYMT Sports Overtime show on Friday night.
“It’s no big deal, but the kids were very cordial. All the boys came through and shook my hand when they got off the bus,” said Edwards. “They would have done that for us if wehad broken down. You’re always supposed to try to do your best to help people when they are in distress. That’s all I did.”
South Floyd officials were also appreciative, including athletic director Tony Isaac, who pointed out that if Edwards had not helped the game probably would have had to have been rescheduled, costing his district the money to pay for a second trip to Harlan.
“I don’t remember hearing of anything like that in all my years of playing, coaching or serving as the athletic director,” he said. “I’ve been around sports since I played in the 1980s, and I’ve never heard of that happening. This is our last year as a high school (before a merger with Allen Central), and we sure didn’t want to miss a game. That gave us a time, while they were playing a game, to send our mechanic and a bus over there to bring our kids home.”
Isaac said the situation was even more unusual because the Harlan County School District was a neutral party in the game since neither team involved was a Harlan County school.
“I don’t think most people would have thought to do something like that, and we’re very grateful and thankful,” he said. “We appreciate the transportation director and the other officials over there who approved sending a bus. If we can ever help any school over there we’ll be happy to do it.”
Edwards said the Floyd bus apparently blew a head gasket. He said he noticed the bus was being loaded to be taken back across the mountain by a wrecker when he returned home Friday night.
Edwards, known to generations of Tri-City students as “Coach E,” was an assistant football coach at Cumberland for 25 years, until the school closed. He was an assistant basketball coach under Bill Scott, then took over as head coach the final two years before the merger that formed Harlan County High School, working with current Harlan coach Derrick Akal. He was also the head middle school coach for several years, leading the Redskins to the county title in 1999 when current HCHS football coach Eddie Creech was the star player. He is back for his second stint coaching middle school boys basketball at Cumberland, leading the Redskins to the fifth- and sixth-grade county championship last season.
After 32 years as a teacher, Edwards retired in 2013. He wasn’t ready to leave education though and is in his fourth year as an aide at Harlan County High School.
“I just have to have something to do. I get bored sitting at the house,” Edwards said.
Edwards also still drives a bus for the county school district, a fact that made life a little more pleasant for a group of South Floyd football players on Friday.
“It shows some people are still interested in helping kids,” Isaac said. “It’s not something you see every day anymore.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134