Oak Creek improves WIAA seeding with victory over Racine Case
Will visit Kenosha Indian Trail Friday
Oak Creek football coach Mike Bartholomew knew he didn't want his team to be a six, seven or eight seed in the upcoming WIAA state playoffs, so the Knights helped themselves greatly with their 42-6 pasting of Racine Case last Friday in the regular season finale.
With that win in hand, Bartholomew was able to go into the seed meeting he hosted on Saturday with a more positive 6-3 record. It's a record that allowed him and the Knights to earn a fifth seed in their eight-team grouping. The Knights make a road trip to Southeast Conference rival Kenosha Indian Trail at 7 p.m. Friday for a Level 1 playoff game.
"We've wanted a chance at a redo of some of our conference games," Bartholomew said, "and I think we got it done."
If the Knights pull off the mild upset, then they will likely get a chance at old rival Franklin in a Level 2 game either Nov. 1 or 2.
Oak Creek lost to Indian Trail on Sept. 7 in the first game of the conference season, 28-14.
"That was a pretty ugly game," Bartholomew said.
The Knights then dropped a physical decision to Franklin, 14-6, on Sept. 20 in the annual "Helmet Game."
Bartholomew said he feels his team is ready for the challenge ahead after finishing in a tie for second in the Southeast at 5-2.
"We're healthy and we've improved every week," he said. "It's kind of interesting. We get to play a team we played seven weeks ago. We broke it down and that was not a pretty film. We deserved to lose. We think we've improved and we get to test that theory on Friday."
The Knights had no trouble convincing Case that they were improved, scoring 35 first-half points and then never looking back.
Those scores included a 2-yard TD run by quarterback Steve Stilwell, a 36-yard run by back Derrick Stephan, a fumble recovery in the end zone by Tory Purpora, an 11-yard run by Donovan Brown and a 3-yard Jordan Strong to Mario Arbanella pass. Stilwell finished the scoring with a 14-yard run in the second half.
"We came out of it healthy with just a couple of dings," Bartholomew said. "We also got more people healthy tonight and we got in all the seniors, which was really nice, especially the kids who have put in the entire four years. It was really neat from that standpoint."
Stephan had nine carries for 86 yards as nine different backs carried the ball for Oak Creek. Strong completed 4 of 5 passes for 58 yards as Arbanella had three of them for 44 yards. Bartholomew also praised the linebackers, all of whom were new and replacing a very talented corps who graduated last year.
The coach thinks that group has really come into its own. They include Jake Regazzi (seven tackles, including a tackle for loss); Nate Windsor (four tackles); Justin Dzibinski (11 total tackles including six solos) and Purpora (two sacks and the fumble recovery in the end zone).
Defensive lineman Sam Johnson forced the fumble that Purpora recovered.
"We got after it pretty well and that was exciting," Bartholomew said.
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