With its season on the line, Oak Creek went score-for-score with a powerful Muskego squad Friday. Needing a win to make the postseason, the Knights rallied on a late touchdown drive but couldn’t recover an onside kick attempt as Muskego eked out a 42-40 win Friday night at Oak Creek.
“There hasn’t been to many 8-1 teams at Muskego,” said Warriors coach Ken Krause. “I’m going to have to look it in the records up, but this team really lived in the weight room.”
Trailing 42-33, the Knights (4-3 overall, 3-4 Southeast) got a much-needed stop deep in their own territory as they stuffed senior running back Jordan Gruettner on fourth down. The Knights had just under 10 minutes left in their season and made every second entertaining.
Constantly avoiding pressure, Oak Creek senior Nick Marks completed two critical third down throws, one to Elijah Strong that went for 14 yards. Marks then surveyed the defense and found a wide open Trae Parker for a 27-yard touchdown strike, pulling Oak Creek to within one score at 42-40.
“There is no lie they have some scary skill position players,” said Krause. “You have to credit Oak Creek for making plays but in the end I think our defense made the plays it needed too.”
With 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining, the Knights lined up for one final kickoff. Their onside kick attempt, however, did not travel 10 yards before it was touched by a Knights player.
“These are the kinds of games you love playing in,” said Gruettner, who finished with 64 yards on six carries and a touchdown.
The powerful Muskego rushing attack gashed the Knights in the first half with big run after big run as the Warriors piled up 441 yards rushing total between four different backs. Brady Simkowski led the way with 213 yards and a score.
“They really did some good things with their offensive line,” said Oak Creek coach Mike Bartholomew. “They got them out and pulling and made things tough for us.”
As explosive as the game was on the ground and through the air, it was one critical defensive play that allowed Muskego (8-1, 6-1) to remain in control. After the Knights forced the first punt of the game with two minutes left in the first half, Oak Creek drove to the Muskego 28-yard line.
Marks avoided pressure from his blind side and fired a high pass that sailed right into the hands of a Muskego defender, killing the drive. It was the one blemish for Marks, who finished with 18 for 24 for 188 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
“That was huge for them right before half,” said Bartholomew. “Marks actually slipped just as he threw the ball, and that’s why it was high. It was really unfortunate.”
Oak Creek linebacker Steve Stilwell had intercepted a tipped ball by Muskego quarterback Eric Pachowitz earlier in the game and returned it for a touchdown to avoid an early blowout.
Bartholomew admitted he had given thought to moving on from coaching. The coach credited his emotional attachment with his senior class as inspiring him to coach again.
“I really thought about not doing this anymore,” said Bartholomew. “This group of seniors really made me fall in love with coaching again.”
Oak Creek misses the playoffs, and the Warriors are one of the area's hottest teams with their only loss coming to Kenosha Bradford. Oak Creek went winless this season at home and won four times on the road.
“Sometimes, it really depends on how the schedule falls,” said Bartholomew. “We knew that Franklin game was big early in the season so that this game didn’t come down to a must win. “