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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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Football: Friday night rewind

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Scoreboard

Thursday (Oct. 14)

Seffner Christian 49, St. Petersburg Catholic 0

Gibbs 38, Tarpon Springs 7

Clearwater 61, Anclote 6

Pinellas Park 49, Hollins 6

Friday (Oct. 15)

Lakewood 56, Hardee 21

Dunedin 32, Gulf 31

Zephyrhills Christian 52, North Florida Educational Institute 12

Boca Ciega 21, Northeast 13

Geneva Classical 50, Hernando Christian 31

Lakeside Christian 64, World of Knowledge 6

Shorecrest 61, Academy at the Lakes 7

Alonso 46, Palm Harbor University 39

Steinbrenner 24, East Lake 14

Indian Rocks Christian 35, Sarasota Out-of-Door 21

Northside Christian 56, Keswick Christian 7

Oasis 21, Bishop McLaughlin 18

Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 27, Cambridge Christian 7

River Ridge 57, Fivay 14

Plant 35, Riverview 16

Tampa Bay Tech 34, Wiregrass Ranch 12

Chamberlain 42, Robinson 14

Berkeley Prep 30, Lakeland Victory Christian 0

Armwood 19, Bloomingdale 8

Sumner 64, Brandon 0

Braden River 32, Clearwater Central Catholic 29

Jesuit 24, Jefferson 0

Seminole 24, St. Petersburg 21

Wharton 42, Strawberry Crest 6

Gaither 37, Sickles 0

Largo 35, Mitchell 28

Tampa Catholic 58, Land O’ Lakes 21

Springstead 48, Central 0

Bradenton Manatee 34, Lennard 26

Durant 29, Plant City 6

Zephyrhills 44, Cypress Creek 3

Hillsborough 78, Blake 0

Belleview 58, Pasco 6

Palmetto 19, East Bay 13

Sunlake 44, Freedom 26

Nature Coast 64, Hudson 57

Wesley Chapel 35, Weeki Wachee 0

Middleton 44, King 7

Bradenton Southeast 39, Spoto 0

Lakeland Kathleen 24, Hernando 0

Prime time performers

LB/TE Justin Anderson, Sr., Hillsborough: Had three tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble on defense and scored once on offense in a win over Blake.

QB Jake Bechtel, Jr., East Lake: Threw for 243 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Steinbrenner. 

CB Michael Boone, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: Returned the opening kickoff of the second half 75 yards for a touchdown in a win over Wiregrass Ranch. 

DL Keyon Clark, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: Recorded two sacks in a win over Wiregrass Ranch. 

QB Anthony Colandrea, Sr., Lakewood: Threw for 430 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Hardee. 

DB Jayden Cornelius, Fr., Durant: Picked off two passes in a win over Plant City. 

RB Christian Cromer, So., Nature Coast: Ran for 379 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries in a win over Hudson.

QB Ethan Fahey, Sr., Nature Coast: Ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries and threw for 100 and another score in a win over Hudson.

LB Niko Ferrero, So., Mitchell: Recorded seven tackles and had a sack and a fumble recovery in a loss to Largo.

ATH Chris Ferrini, Sr., Mitchell: Ran for 62 yards and two touchdowns on offense and had nine tackles on defense in a loss to Largo.

DL/LB MJ Harrell, Sr., Boca Ciega: Returned an interception for a touchdown in the second half that gave the Pirates the cushion they needed to beat previously undefeated Northeast. 

QB Gavin Henley, Sr., Lennard: Threw for 212 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 79 and a score in a loss to Bradenton Manatee.

WR/CB Michael Jelks, So., Dunedin: Had four catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Gulf. 

ATH Nate Johnson, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic: Had two long touchdown runs in a loss to Braden River. 

QB Luke Knight, So., Jesuit: Threw for two touchdowns in a win over Jefferson. 

QB Jack Lennon, Sr., Plant: Threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 55 in a win over Riverview.

WR Colin MacLean, Sr., East Lake: Hauled in a 64 yard pass for a touchdown in a loss to Steinbrenner. 

QB Aidan MacLean, Sr., Clearwater: Completed all six of his passes for 156 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Anclote. 

RB Mario Mayo, Jr., Tampa Catholic: Ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in a win over Land O’ Lakes. 

RB Lance Miller, Sr., Dunedin: Ran for 149 yards on 19 carries in a win over Gulf. 

WR Ha’Keem Monoe, Sr., Lennard: Had five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Bradenton Manatee.

RB Markese Norfleet, Jr., Northeast: Ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Boca Ciega. 

QB Rickeem Parks, Sr., Wharton: Ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in a win over Strawberry Crest. 

RB Chris Perkins, Sr., Plant: Ran for 91 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries in a win over Riverview.

DE/RB Deondre Randall, Sr., Largo: Recorded three sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered one that was returned for a touchdown on defense and scored two rushing touchdowns on offense in a win over Mitchell. 

QB Brady Shaffer, So., Palm Harbor University: Threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Alonso.

QB Parker Stirnkorb, Jr., Dunedin: Threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Gulf. 

DB RJ Stroud, Jr., Armwood: Returned an interception for a touchdown that helped clinch a win over Bloomingdale. 

RB Jaylin Thomas, Sr., Zephyrhills: Ran for 145 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries added another score on a reception, all in the first quarter, of a win over Cypress Creek.

P Griffin Wiltse, Sr., Steinbrenner: Averaged 47 yards on his three punts in a win over East Lake.

RB Luke Yoder, Jr., Palm Harbor University: Ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in a loss to Alonso.

QB Hunter Young, Sr., Hudson: Accounted for eight touchdowns (five passing, three rushing), as well as a 2-point conversion, in a loss to Nature Coast.

Up next

Thursday (Oct. 21)

Springstead at Lecanto, 7

Friday (Oct. 22)

Lakeside Christian at Foundation Christian, 4

Osceola at St. Petersburg, 7

Keswick Christian at Mount Dora Christian, 7

Clearwater Central Catholic at Kissimmee Gateway, 7

Pinellas Park at Palm Harbor University, 7

Sunlake at Countryside, 7

St. Petersburg Catholic at Bishop McLaughlin, 7

Tarpon Springs at Clearwater, 7

Academy at the Lakes at Ocala St. John Lutheran, 7

Legacy Charter at Indian Rocks Christian, 7

Seffner Christian at St. Joseph Academy, 7

Calvary Chapel Academy at Canterbury, 7

Cambridge Christian at Carrollwood Day, 7

Seminole at Boca Ciega, 7

Hollins at Northeast, 7

Lakeland Christian at Calvary Christian, 7

Winter Haven at Tampa Catholic, 7

Lennard at Jefferson, 7:30

Blake at Jesuit, 7:30

Middleton at Durant, 7:30

Sickles at Largo, 7:30

Hillsborough at King, 7:30

Gulf at Gibbs, 7:30

Dunedin at Anclote, 7:30

Hudson at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

Wiregrass Ranch at Armwood, 7:30

Gaither at Leto, 7:30

Zephyrhills Christian at Bradenton Christian, 7:30

Land O’ Lakes at Pasco, 7:30

Riverview at Newsome, 7:30

Chamberlain at Steinbrenner, 7:30

Gainesville Christian Community at Hernando Christian, 7:30

Tampa Bay Tech at Wharton, 7:30

Plant at Plant City, 7:30

East Bay at Bradenton Manatee, 7:30

Sumner at Braden River, 7:30

Brandon at Spoto, 7:30

Freedom at Fivay, 7:30

Cypress Creek at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Zephyrhills at Nature Coast, 7:30

Robinson at Alonso, 7:30

Palmetto at Bloomingdale, 7:30

Berkeley Prep at New Orleans Newman, 7

Clearwater Academy at McCallie (Tenn.), 7:30

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Friday night scoreboard

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Final Lakewood 56, Hardee 21

Final Dunedin 32, Gulf 31

Final Zephyrhills Christian 52, North Florida Educational Institute 12

Final Boca Ciega 21, Northeast 13

Final Alonso 46, Palm Harbor University 39

Final Steinbrenner 24, East Lake 14

Final Indian Rocks Christian 35, Sarasota Out-of-Door 21

Final Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 27, Cambridge Christian 7

Final River Ridge 57, Fivay 14

Final Plant 35, Riverview 16

Final Tampa Bay Tech 34, Wiregrass Ranch 12

Final Chamberlain 42, Robinson 14

Final Berkeley Prep 30, Lakeland Victory Christian 0

Final Armwood 19, Bloomingdale 8

Final Sumner 64, Brandon 0

Final Braden River 32, Clearwater Central Catholic 29

Final Jesuit 24, Jefferson 0

Final Seminole 24, St. Petersburg 21

Final Wharton 42, Strawberry Crest 6

Final Gaither 37, Sickles 0

Final Largo 35, Mitchell 28

Final Tampa Catholic 58, Land O’ Lakes 21

Final Bradenton Manatee 34, Lennard 26

Final Durant 29, Plant City 6

Final Zephyrhills 44, Cypress Creek 3

Final Hillsborough 78, Blake 0

Final Belleview 58, Pasco 6

Final Palmetto 19, East Bay 13

Final Sunlake 44, Freedom 26

Final Nature Coast 64, Hudson 57

Final Wesley Chapel 35, Weeki Wachee 0

Final Middleton 44, King 7

Final Bradenton Southeast 39, Spoto 0

Final Lakeland Kathleen 24, Hernando 0

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Friday night football forecast

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Must-see matchups

Northeast (6-0) at Boca Ciega (4-2), 7

A win would all but clinch the Class 6A, District 11 title for the Vikings. That could be tough considering Northeast is dealing with some injuries. 

Putnam’s prediction: Boca Ciega 21-20

Steinbrenner (3-4) at East Lake (2-5), 7

The winner becomes the overwhelming favorite to take the Class 8A, District 11 title. 

Putnam’s prediction: Steinbrenner 17-13

Armwood (4-2) at Bloomingdale (3-3), 7:30

The Hawks won both meetings in 2019. The Bulls won both meetings last season. The stakes are not as high this time around with neither team in the same district but still a riveting rivalry. 

Putnam’s prediction: Armwood 27-21

Nature Coast (4-2) at Hudson (5-1), 7:30

The Sharks already have a loss in Class 5A, District 9 play and cannot afford another if they want to stay within striking distance of the Cobras and Zephyrhills at the top of the standings. 

Putnam’s prediction: Nature Coast 24-21

Largo (2-4) at Mitchell (6-1), 7:30

This is a must-win for the Packers to have any shot at the Class 7A, District 9 title.

Putnam’s prediction: Mitchell 20-14

Tampa Bay Tech (6-0) at Wiregrass Ranch (4-1), 7:30

A Titans win would set up a showdown with Wharton next week to decide the Class 7A, District 10 title. This matchups features two differing styles on offense with Tampa Bay Tech’s ground attack going up against the Bulls’ aerial assault.  

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Bay Tech 28-21

Plant City (4-2) at Durant (6-1), 7:30

The host Cougars already have a loss in Class 8A, District 10 and cannot afford another one to keep their title hopes alive. 

Putnam’s prediction: Durant 17-16

Tampa Catholic (3-2) at Land O’ Lakes (6-0), 7:30

This is the Gators’ toughest test so far this season, one that could end up derailing their perfect regular season. 

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Catholic 34-28

East Bay (5-1) at Palmetto (2-3), 7:30

A pivotal Class 7A, District 11 matchup the visiting Indians need to keep their district title hopes alive. 

Putnam’s prediction: Palmetto 14-13 

Braden River (5-0) at Clearwater Central Catholic (4-2), 7:30

The tough schedule continues for the Marauders who face the undefeated the Pirates. 

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater Central Catholic 21-16

The remaining schedule

Bishop McLaughlin at Oasis, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Bishop McLaughlin 21-19

Cambridge Christian at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 38-20

Berkeley Prep at Lakeland Victory Christian, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Berkeley Prep 34-7

Indian Rocks Christian at Sarasota Out-of-Door, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Indian Rocks Christian 21-14

Alonso at Palm Harbor University, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Palm Harbor University 16-14

Keswick Christian at Northside Christian, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Northside Christian 37-31

St. Petersburg at Seminole, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Seminole 28-7

Academy at the Lakes at Shorecrest, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Shorecrest 35-21

Zephyrhills Christian at North Florida Educational Institute, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills Christian 42-21

Hardee at Lakewood, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Lakewood 24-6

Central at Springstead, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Springstead 35-0

Bradenton Manatee at Lennard, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Lennard 35-21

Wharton at Strawberry Crest, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Wharton 35-0

Spoto at Bradenton Southeast, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Bradenton Southeast 20-14

Brandon at Sumner, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Sumner 41-7

Zephyrhills at Cypress Creek, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills 27-16

King at Middleton, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: King 28-20

Blake at Hillsborough, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Hillsborough 34-6

Plant at Riverview, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Plant 35-14

Robinson at Chamberlain, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Chamberlain 27-14

Gulf, at Dunedin 7

Putnam’s prediction: Dunedin 21-12

Jesuit at Jefferson, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Jesuit 31-7

Freedom at Sunlake, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Sunlake 21-6

Sickles at Gaither, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Gaither 28-27

Pasco at Belleview, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Belleview 35-0

Fivay at River Ridge, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: River Ridge 41-14

Wesley Chapel at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Wesley Chapel 28-0

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