Oak Creek ready for Bradford's best in WIAA second-round playoff test Friday
Knights routed state champs first time
Oak Creek - It was early in the season when the Oak Creek football team was starting to shift into high gear while defending Division 1 state champion Kenosha Bradford was still trying to find its way after large graduation losses.
The result was a 42-10 rout for the surging Knights and it paved the way for an 8-0 regular season and the team's first Southeast Conference championship in nine years.
Now, more than a month has passed and things have changed. The Knights are still red-hot, having buried Milwaukee Hamilton, 63-0, in their first-round playoff game last Friday.
But the Red Devils (6-3) are now substantially better, having won their last four games including a 34-21 decision over returning Division 1 state semifinalist Milwaukee Riverside in a first-round playoff game.
Bradford will get to see if its surge can match Oak Creek's continued growth, when the Knights host the Red Devils in a WIAA Division 1, Level 2 playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday.
"They're going to be sore about that first one," said Knights coach Mike Bartholomew. "Just as we would be in that same situation. That's a prideful group of players and coaches down there. And I've watched some recent film of them and they are a lot better than they were (earlier in the year)."
Bartholomew will also be working a little bit of the same formula that he had to conjure up last week.
He said his players knew that the Hamilton game would not be much of a challenge and it wasn't.
With the Knights up 28-0 after the first quarter and 49-0 at halftime, everybody on the roster played.
"We were pretty upfront with the kids all week, right from the get-go," he said. "We challenged them to be mature enough to have a great week of practice, and we talked about the things that we always talk about, playing against ourselves, trying to get better and I thought the kids did a great job with that.
"They were ready to play. It was a real credit to them."
So, Bartholomew and his staff are trusting the players again to not get caught looking ahead to a potential third-round match against archrival Franklin. The Sabers (7-2) host Lake Geneva Badger (7-2) in their second-round game on Friday. Oak Creek beat Franklin, 24-7, in an early-season game.
Bartholomew is also encouraged by the team's continued run of good health. The team even got veteran offensive lineman Grayson Ruhl back from the injured list.
Virgil Hammond scored the first two TDs of the game (65 yards and 10 yards) and gained 112 yards on just six carries against Hamilton. But it was reserve back Ae Vang (three carries for 76 yards) who stole the show, as he scored the game's third TD on a 45-yard punt return and also broke off a 71-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
The Knights rushed for 356 total yards as Jamie Smith had five carries for 75 yards including a 65-yard scoring burst, Derrick Stephan added eight carries for 59 yards and a seven-yard paydirt-finding effort and Donovan Brown had 19 carries on four tries.
Oak Creek's efficiency carries over into the passing game, as the Knights completed only two passes but both went for scores. Chase Leonardi caught a five-yard pass from Steve Stillwell and Zack Harvey snagged a nine-yard toss from Jordan Strong. Dylan Oleszak also added a 55-yard punt return for a score.
"It was a great practice for our younger kids, especially our linemen," Bartholomew said. "A nice opportunity for everyone."
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