Spurred by the emotion of Homecoming weekend and the big play ability of senior quarterback Nick Marks, Oak Creek raced to an early 13-7 lead over visiting Kenosha Bradford and looked poised to knock off the state’s second-ranked team.
But some fourth-down magic and the triple-threat capabilities of Bradford quarterback Zach Swisher carried the visiting Red Devils to a wild 55-35 Southeast conference win Friday night. Swisher threw, ran, and caught a touchdown in the victory, while Bradford scored three touchdowns on fourth down to remain unbeaten.
The Knights (3-3, 2-2) took the opening drive 65 yards and jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when Marks hooked up with receiver Rey Overland on a 35-yard streak down the left sideline just 2:40 into the game. After Bradford answered with a score, Marks expertly faked a running back toss and gashed a frozen Red Devils defense for a 68-yard touchdown run for the 13-7 lead.
But as it would all night, Bradford systematically moved the ball down the field, taking a 14-13 on a fourth-down running back pass from senior Quanzell Murphy to Swisher for a 10-yard score. Bradford would score a touchdown on their first six possessions of the game, and the Knights would not get a stop until junior Dylan Oleszak intercepted Swisher early in the fourth quarter.
Swisher finished with 267 total yards, including 96 on the ground in the victory.
“We needed a stop and just couldn’t get one tonight,” said Oak Creek head coach Mike Bartholomew. “Their offensive line was the difference. We had some opportunities, but their offense is awfully good.”
Bradford (6-0, 4-0) took control of the game on a 13-yard touchdown run by senior running back John Myers with 31 seconds left in the first half, followed by a nearly six minute scoring drive to start the third quarter that put the Red Devils up 35-21.
“I thought it put us in great position,” said Kenosha Bradford head coach Jed Kennedy. “It was a big swing for us making it a two score game, because our offense is good enough to grind it out.”
The outcome spoiled a spectacular game for Marks and the Knights offense, as Oak Creek outgained Bradford, 460-439. Marks finished 12 of 25 for 207 and three touchdowns, adding 81 yards and the score on the ground, while running backs Lincoln Wylie and Virgil Hammond combined for 158 rushing yards.
Bradford would maintain a two-score advantage throughout the second half and put the Knights away on a beautifully orchestrated hook and ladder play to seal the victory. Following a muffed punt that Bradford recovered on the Oak Creek 24, receiver Tony DeBartolo flipped the ball to a streaking Myers after catching a short out for the clinching score.
“We work gadget plays every day in practice,” said Kennedy. “If we can make people defend us for 48 minutes, we feel like we’ll be in good shape. We ran some of our wildcat and flex stuff and were able to keep them on their heels.”
After moving the ball effectively against one of the state’s best teams, Bartholomew has high expectations for the Knights as they head to Kenosha Tremper (3-3, 1-3) next Friday.
“I’ve said all year, we are a good football team. But we need to win a close game, and to me, we need to win out. That starts with taking care of things next week,” said Bartholomew.
Kenosha Bradford will host Racine Horlick (0-6, 0-4) next Friday.