Best in the Land: Oil City Running Back Ethen Knox Leads the Country in Rushing Yards Per Game Heading Into Clash Against Rival Franklin

| September 15, 2022

OIL CITY, Pa. (EYT) — A little more than a year ago, Ethen Knox was without a position.

Playing running back was certainly not on his radar.

(Photo by Richard Sayer/Eight & 322)

He was a wide receiver. That’s where the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder played most of his life, including as a freshman on the Oil City junior varsity football team in 2020.

Knox didn’t have the classic build of a ballcarrier.

Looks can be deceiving. About 14 months later, Knox is statistically one of the best running backs in the nation.

Oil City Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


Knox moved to the backfield two weeks before the start of last season. The sudden change even surprised him.

Turned out to be a pretty good switch. All Knox did in his debut season in a brand new position was break the Oil City single-game rushing record with 492 yards against Franklin on the way to 1,825 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He’s even better this season.

A lot better.

After gashing the North East defense last week for 445 yards on 44 carries and scoring five more touchdowns, Knox has already piled up a staggering 1,151 yards on the ground and 16 TDs this season.

His 383.7 yards per game leads the country, according to statistics compiled by Maxpreps.

Mind-boggling stuff, right?

Not to Knox.

“No, honestly,” he said. “I think that when you have the line that I do, it’s not hard to believe putting up numbers like that.”

Like any running back, Knox heaps praise upon that physical and dominant offensive line that is as big as they come in District 10 with two guys weighing more than 300 pounds and a converted tight end from last season, Cam Crocker, who tips the scales at 285.

Knox is often standing in the end zone untouched.

He shows his appreciation any way he can.

“I definitely try to give credit where it’s due,” Knox said. “I try to help them out as much as they can for all that they do for me. They make me look like a superstar when they’re doing all the work.”

Knox does his part to take advantage of those holes with a blend of speed, quickness and vision.

It’s something he’s worked diligently on since moving to running back.

He also worked on getting stronger to absorb some of the punishment he takes. He already has 101 rushing attempts in three games.

“Last year, I would come home after games and be a lot more sore,” Knox said. “I’m stronger so getting all those carries now isn’t as bad. I worked a lot over the summer, too, on just being a lot faster and quicker making cuts so that I could be doing this.”

Knox has already made history this season.

In Week 2 against Corry, he tied the school record with seven touchdowns. He also gained 402 yards in the win.

With two 400-yard rushing games this year, he’s one away from tying the single-season PIAA record, which is held by Dominic Bragalone of South Williamsport. Bragalone had three 400-yard performances in 2014.

That could come this week against struggling Franklin when Oil City hosts the Knights.

Knox, though, isn’t getting ahead of himself. He knows how strange football can be. Nothing can be taken for granted.

“I’m definitely not underestimating them,” Knox said.

Knox also doesn’t want to think about other Pennsylvania rushing records that could be within his reach.

Former Meadville star Journey Brown holds the PIAA single-game record with 722 yards. That came in the insane 107-90 win over DuBois in 2015. The state single-season record is 4,704 yards set Bragalone in 2014. Bragalone averaged 313 yards per game that year for the Mountaineers.

The only numbers Knox really cares about, though, is 3-0.

That’s Oil City’s record out of the gate in 2022.

“Last year we won only three games, so this feels pretty good,” Knox said. “We were super young last year and we’re all a little older now, so that helps. The bar was already set pretty high for us this year, but now that we’ve scored over 150 points in three game, I think it makes us want to aim higher. Last year people were like, ‘meh,’ when they talked about us.”

Not anymore.

Thanks to Knox.

Knox, though, knows there will be a bigger target on his back going forward.

The word is out, not just locally, but across the state and country.

“It was kind of exciting when I first heard (I was leading the nation),” Knox said. “I just have to keep going. Honestly, it just makes me have to work more to stay there.”

Oil City Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.

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