OIL CITY, Pa. – Oil City junior Ethen Knox has garnered attention from all corners of the country for his rushing accolades this season.
The numbers are staggering – Knox has rushed for at least 400 yards in a game six times and narrowly missed the feat in the Oilers’ most recent win against Titusville (395). He broke a record previously held by current Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry, who accomplished the feat four times during his senior season at Yulee (Fla.).
Against Titusville Knox also broke the career and single-season rushing records for the Oilers and now has 5,177 yards in his career, 3,352 of which have come this season.
That season total leads the nation among teams that enter their stats on MaxPreps.
All that being said, the number that is most important to Knox and the Oilers is their seven wins, now with an eye toward the playoffs.
“All the attention whether from normal people or from the news or anything like that I just try to be thankful and just brush it off soon after so I can stay focused on the task at hand, which right now happens to be each week’s game and making sure we’re prepared and play well,” Knox said.
Knox carries a heavy workload, having eclipsed 50 carries in a game twice this season, as well as being a standout on defense with six interceptions.
It’s a workload that he is more prepared for this season than he was a year ago.
“Even last season the workload was a lot and I wasn’t as prepared for it all but coming off that season I kind of knew what my role was going to be this year so I knew what to train for,” Knox said. “Specifically with making sure I was conditioned and able to take some hits in games so this season hasn’t been nearly as bad when it comes to the soreness after games and everything
It’s impressive, but as one of a number of Oilers who play both ways, he knows it was a responsibility to be prepared for that role.
“Making sure I play well is a main concern for me because we have a bunch of guys who play both sides of the ball and special teams too and I want to make sure that if I can contribute to helping the team be successful in any way then I will contribute to it, including on defense,” Knox said.
Of course, any great running back will tell you that it all starts up front, and the Oilers’ offensive line is a big reason they are 7-2.
That group includes Henry Milford, Tanner Kightlinger, James O’Dell, Logan Suttle, and Jacob VanWormer, as well as tight end/offensive lineman Cam Wormer, fullback Kevin Pearsall, and others.
“My offensive line has been killing it because throughout the whole offseason I’d see them all in the weight room and at all the summer training right there with me,” Knox said. “So they’ve worked super hard to be doing the things they are this season.
“I would say our offensive line and defense are two major strengths we have coming into the playoffs. Both of them have been super dominant this season.”
It’s a defense that is led by the likes of Pearsall (64 tackles, 14 TFL, 7 sacks) and Brayden McFetridge (55 tackles, 15 TFL, 11 sacks).
They are all part of an Oiler team with great camaraderie. That is one of the things Knox enjoys most about football, a game he had loved since a young age.
“My favorite part about football would probably be the team atmosphere,” Knox said. “It’s a lot of fun when you have a great group of guys together like us that are all really great friends off the field too so we can all just have fun on the field.”
It’s a group that now has a bye week before the District 10 Class 3A playoffs, where the Oilers will be considered one of the favorites in what will be a loaded field.
The Oilers have already dealt with some key injuries, and Knox knows that staying healthy will be key.
For now, though, they are continuing to enjoy the ride and the success that has come from all of their hard work.
“I think a major key in us as a team going farther into the postseason is making sure everyone stays healthy,” Knox said. “I mean we’ve already had one senior who was a major part of our team offensively and defensively who was just injured and I’m unsure if he’ll be able to finish out the season, so making sure everyone stays healthy will definitely be a major key in our next games.”