Max Edwards stood proudly on the podium as the sun set over Camping World Stadium early Saturday evening.
He had another medal around his neck after watching his team, which was given up for dead seven weeks ago, win a second consecutive state title following Northwestern’s 22-0 victory over Seffner Armwood in the 6A state title game at Camping World Stadium.
But this medal had an entirely different feel to it. As well it should have.
That’s because the combination of a brutal regular season that saw his team at 3-5 with two games left and having to scramble just to make the playoffs, along with what has notoriously been an impatient fan base, led to what was rumored to be his dismissal preceding the Nov. 2 Soul Bowl matchup against Jackson at Traz Powell Stadium.
But the unconditional love from his players who affectionately refer to him as “Coach Max” rose to the surface when the rumors surfaced that he was going to be fired and would not be on the sidelines for the Soul Bowl.
“We had heard the news that Coach Max was going to get fired, we got together as a team and knew that we had to rally around him and come together for him,” defensive tackle and Pittsburgh commit Calijah Kancey said at practice during the week leading up to Saturday’s game. “It made us mad and more hungry. We weren’t going to play the Soul Bowl unless he was coming back. When we got the news that he was back, we just went out there and gave it 110 percent and we just took off from there.”
When approached after the game on Saturday, Edwards denied that he was actually fired and blamed it on former players who got on social media.
“They went to social media and said things that I didn’t say and weren’t true,” Edwards said. “The alumni, the administration backed me up because they knew it wasn’t true. I was never fired. It was social media driven by former players. Once it got out there, I couldn’t get out there and fight that. I’m not a social media guy.”