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Size counts: Huge line will lead strong Oak Creek football team

Knights experienced in all areas

Oak Creek receiver Nathan Harvey (left) is one of numerous letter winners hoping to lead the Knight football team to a Southeast Conference title this season.

Oak Creek receiver Nathan Harvey (left) is one of numerous letter winners hoping to lead the Knight football team to a Southeast Conference title this season. Photo By John O'Hara

Aug. 18, 2014

Well, that didn't take long.

Just two years removed from its last Southeast Conference title run in 2012, the Oak Creek football team finds itself experienced, talented and primed for another SEC crown this fall.

"Yes, that's what I would say," said veteran coach Mike Bartholomew. "We have a high number of returning letter winners and had a very good off-season of preparation. The kids are also excited and ready to get started."

The Knights are coming off a competitive 6-4 season where they were young at many positions. Now those players are older, more experienced and ready for success.

An enormous "road-grader" style all-senior offensive line is seen as the major key to success. It is led by four-year letter winner 6-5, 328-pound Nathan Veloz (right guard). He will be joined on the right side by three-year starting tackle Matt Goebel (6-6, 302). Veloz has been recruited by Northern Illinois.

Other veterans on the line include 6-3, 326-pound center Jose Santaella, guard Peyton Salzer (6-2, 289) and tackle Ryan Schmidt (6-2, 279). Even the veteran tight end, 6-3, 203-pound Aaron Lemke, is big. He will get help at that position from newcomer senior Christian Sedlak.

"Our opposition knows what were made of," Bartholomew said of the Knights' size. "We're not going to fool anybody."

Benefiting from all that hole-opening mass is senior all-conference running back Jamie Smith, who Bartholomew said is "coming off a great year". Other running backs of note include sophomore track ace Roy Harden and junior Pius transfer Joe Blando.

Running the show will be senior letter winner Steve Stillwell, whom Bartholomew likens to a "dealer in poker".

"He'll get it to the right playmakers and take what the defense gives him," Bartholomew said.

Other offensive letter winners include senior receivers Nathan Cornale, Nathan Harvey and Garrett Koch.

The defense is only slightly less experienced. The backfield will be strong with senior Elijah Strong, junior Ray Bright, senior Ryan Bopari and senior Doran Turchin, who started as a sophomore, dedicated himself to baseball his junior year and now is back as a starting defensive back this fall. He was recently named NOW Player of the Year in baseball.

Veterans in the linebacking corps include inside backers senior Jake Regazzi and junior Nate Windsor and senior outside linebacker Justin Dzibinski. New linebackers include junior R.J. Traxel and senior Ryan Stenlund.

A veteran on the three-man defensive front is senior nose guard Jordan Frentz, and he will get help from junior Matt Ross and senior Parker Brehm.

Bartholomew said the scrimmage last weekend against Milwaukee Lutheran, Sussex Hamilton and Waukesha West went well. He said the defensive front of West may be as good as the Knights see this year, so it was an excellent test.

"We did a lot of good and not so good things," he said. "You scrimmage quality opponents and get to recognize things right away. It's like we told the kids afterward, 'At least we know what we have to fix.'

It's been a good camp so far. The kids have let us coach them. They're accepting the coaching ... We'll look to compete hard and execute at a higher level this year. We think we're a very good team, but execution is what will count."

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