HUNTINGTON — As the bus traveled through the Florida night taking the Fort Pierce Central boys basketball team back home, Josh Knight sat in the darkness and reflected on his days as a Cobra.
Knight and his teammates had just lost a hard-fought double overtime game in Florida’s Region 3 5-A quarterfinal round stage. Charlotte topped Fort Pierce 78-72 in Punta Gorda to advance on in the postseason.
Before fouling out, Knight scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds.
The way it is in postseason high school basketball, only those fortunate enough to capture state championships will win that last game.
Those falling along the way in State Tournament competition find their seasons come to an abrupt halt. And for someone like Knight it’s even a bit worse, it closes the curtain on a career as a high school senior.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. I’ve been a key player since my freshman year,” said Knight, a very polite young man, on his cell phone while riding the team bus.
While the loss saddened Knight that his basketball days were over at Fort Pierce, he also started pondering the future. Actually, it’s something he’s been doing a lot of in recent months.
The next time Knight steps into an arena of athletic competition it will be as a football player for Marshall University. Knight is one of the 29 individuals Doc Holliday and company are bringing to Huntington as the future of Herd football.
Knight is a gifted wide receiver and was considered to be one of the true gifts for the program on National Signing Day.
“I just try to perform on the field the best I can,” said Knight, who helped lead Fort Pierce to Florida’s high school football playoffs. “I just try to give 110 percent every play. I feel I’m an all-around receiver. I feel good about my route running, catching the ball. I just try to go hard on every play.”
On the Cobra team of 2012, Knight snagged 23 passes for 324 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Those may not be jaw-dropping numbers, but Knight said he played in an offense that did a nice job of spreading the ball around. “We had quite a few good receivers on our team,” said Knight.
As a junior, Knight grabbed 29 passes for 365 yards and produced six touchdowns.
Knight says playing in Florida has helped prepare him for the next stage of his football life.
“There are a lot of great players down here,” he said. “You see good competition not only with who you are playing against, but even on your own team. Being around guys who compete every day, you can’t settle. It teaches you to stay hungry.
Fort Pierce is the county seat of St. Lucie County in Florida. It is known as Sunrise City, the sister to San Francisco, which is the Sunset City.
Knight picked Marshall over Bowling Green, Florida International, Georgia State and Massachusetts.
He visited Marshall when the Herd knocked off Memphis, 38-28, back on November 3. Knight liked what he saw offensively from the Herd. Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 34-of-44 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns. Cato fired passes to 11 different receivers in the game.
“I love that pass-first offense,” said Knight.
That day against the blue and white Tigers is when Knight, who donned purple and gold as a Cobra, decided he wanted to sport green and white in his future football endeavors.
“I could see myself in that system,” he said. “Basically, I fell in love with the coaching staff when I visited.”
Just a few months after his sojourn to Huntington, Knight made it official by signing with the Herd back home in the Sunshine State.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back up there.”
And as our phone conversation ended, the soon-to-be Herd pass catcher went back to thinking about what is next as an athlete.
Josh Knight hopes for many big days and nights as a Thundering Herd football player.
Insider Columnist Mark Martin is the longtime sports director at WCHS Television in Huntington-Charleston, and the football game analyst on the Thundering Herd/IMG Sports Network.