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Hillsborough’s Erriyon Knighton: the fastest high school athlete in America

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Erriyon Knighton accelerated powerfully at the start of his 200 meter race. By the time the Hillsborough High sprinter turned the corner, he already had the lead.

Running alone — startlingly alone — for the last half of the event, Knighton showed no interest in slowing down with the gold medal at last weekend’s Junior Olympics already a foregone conclusion. 

Instead, Knighton dashed to the finish, screeching past a fast field and into the record books. 

The result was a stunning wind-legal time of 20.33 seconds, the fastest-ever recorded in the 16 year old’s age group (15-16) at the Junior Olympics and the nation’s top time by a high school athlete so far this year. 

“I was really just trying to beat the age group record of 20.62,” Knighton said. “I knew I went pretty fast, maybe had a time of like 20.55. 

“Once they told me my actual time, I was in shock.”

So was the rest of the track world. 

Knighton shaved 56 seconds off his personal best set last month. And his blistering 20.33 time was just 0.20 seconds off the under-18 world record set by Usain Bolt. 

That was not all. 

In the 100 meters, Knighton again sprinted to the head of the class at the Junior Olympics, this time winning in 10.29 seconds, a time that is tied for the nation’s top mark by a high school athlete this year.

Those two performances got the attention of several sports celebrities, locally and nationally, who weighed in on the eye-opening times. 

Former Lakers standout Mychal Thompson, the father of Golden State’s Klay Thompson, took to social media, comparing Knighton to track icon Bolt. 

Trayvon Bromell, the Olympic sprinter who starred at Gibbs and Baylor, also heaped praise on Knighton, particularly boasting about the speed Florida produces. 

“I’m happy for (Knighton),” Bromell said. “Those are great times to be running at his age.”

Even though Knighton has solidified himself as the premier up-and-coming sprinter in the nation, if not the world, his meteoric rise is somewhat startling.

After all, Knighton still is a novice in the sport. He took up track for the first time last year, due in part to a heavy push from Terriers coach Joey Sipp. 

“I knew it would only help him in football,” Sipp said.

Knighton is a neophyte in football, too. He started taking the sport seriously in middle school and didn’t play varsity at Hillsborough until this past season. As a sophomore, Knighton had just seven receptions, four of which went for touchdowns. 

“Erriyon is the fastest guy we’ve ever had and we’ve had some pretty fast dudes around here,” Hillsborough football coach Earl Garcia said. “The thing that’s the most impressive about Erriyon is he’s not just a track guy that happens to play football. He blocks. He’ll return kicks. He can do it all on the field.”

Knighton’s big-play ability, combined with his speed, made him a bona fide football prospect. He is already ranked as a four-star recruit on 247 Sports’ composite list and has offers from six Division I-A programs, including Florida and FSU.

Track stardom took more time.

“I really didn’t think I would be that good as a sprinter,” Knighton said. “I was really doing it because I thought it might help me a little bit and stay in shape for football.”

At last year’s Junior Olympics, Knighton took home medals in the 100 and 200. That was the moment he felt he could excel in the sport. 

Knighton’s performance this year is even more impressive when you consider his high school season was reduced to just a few meets and his training regimen has been cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The scary thing is Erriyon is just scratching the surface,” Sipp said. “I don’t even think he realizes just how fast he can be.”

Blazing past defenders — and opposing sprinters — is something Knighton has the chance to do on the next level. 

So far, Knighton’s only track scholarship is from FSU. Still, the multi-sport star said every football coach who has offered told him he could run track. 

Knighton’s future is coming into his focus. 

So is his vision. 

This summer, Knighton failed a physical because of poor eyesight. He had 20/100 vision in one eye and 20/80 in the other. He now has glasses and plans on getting contacts. 

“It didn’t really bother me in track,” Knighton said. “I could still see. The only thing that was blurry was when I tried to read plays from the sideline in football.”

The picture is clear. Two more years of football and track at Hillsborough, followed by four more years of both sports in college. 

What becomes the focus after that?

“I might lean toward track, slightly,” Knighton said. “I’m thinking about the Olympics more and more.” 

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Flag Football

Sydney Stout reaches 100 touchdown passes — this season

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Robinson quarterback Sydney Stout reached an impressive milestone with her 100th touchdown pass on Monday.   

That is not a career mark.

Stout reached that total this season.

The senior already had shattered the flag football single-season state record of 79 touchdown passes and entered the Class 2A region final needing just three touchdowns to hit triple digits. 

No problem. 

Stout threw four touchdown passes — in the first half. 

She added another in the second half to give her 102, a number that will continue to grow. 

After all, the Knights beat Lecanto 34-0 in the region final. Robinson, which has won state titles in five of the past six seasons (the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic), advances to the state semifinals on Friday. Stout could end up playing in two more games if the Knights keep their state title streak intact. 

And there’s a good chance of that happening considering Robinson has outscored foes by a combined 816-50 this year.  

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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