Oak Creek is a team that went for a two-point conversion with the season on the line in the final minute of play of the regular-season finale. The Knights weren’t about to play it conservative now that they were in the playoffs.
So on 3rd and 7 in the final two minutes of play at their own 40 and needing to milk the final two minutes of clock, Oak Creek quarterback Jakup Sinani aired it out, found Ryan Harvey-Turner for a 50-yard gain and put the game on ice. When Sinani punched in his third touchdown of the night with two seconds on the clock, Oak Creek had a 38-28 win over Kenosha Bradford in Level 1 of the WIAA Division 1 football playoffs.
Eschewing a third straight running play or a short completion that would have compelled Bradford to use its final timeout but still potentially get one last crack in a three-point game, Sinani went for the home run.
“I went to Dean (Tutas, assistant coach) on the phones and said, ‘Let’s go for the win,’” coach Mike Bartholomew said. “We’re talking constantly, and I said, 'I like stop and go here.' The logical choice was to run stop, but we rolled the dice, and we’re good at it, too. Jake throws the ball well, and Ryan’s an outstanding receiver. There was some risk involved, but there wasn’t risk because you knew we were going to get open because they have to jump their shallow routes.”
Sinani ran for 72 yards, threw for 88, scored the three times and piloted the Knights (7-3) into a rematch with rival Franklin in Level 2.
“Every game has been like that this year,” Sinani said. “We just have to overcome it. Every week, we say we’re the only ones who can beat ourselves. All the penalties, the mistakes are what really kill us … we believe in all our players to make a big play, and it just happened to be Ryan.”
The Knights elected to go for it on 4th and goal three plays after the catch by Harvey-Turner, needing to kill the final seven seconds with the three-point lead. Sinani didn’t hesitate in taking the keeper right and into the end zone for a clincher.
“It was just a relief,” Sinani said.
Oak Creek’s defense kept Bradford off the scoreboard entirely in the first half and held a 14-0 lead, but Bradford’s ability to hit the big play helped the Red Devils tie the game at 14 and again at 21. Lightning-fast receiver Jakari Godfrey broke free for a 27-yard touchdown, and his 30-yard reception set up a touchdown toss to Marquon Williams that tied the game at 14 with 6:43 left in the third.
After Oak Creek retook the lead, Kenosha Bradford returned the kickoff to the Knights’ 39 and followed up with a 26-yard scoring pass to Williams with 1:32 to go in the quarter. But the Oak Creek defense kept from breaking thereafter.
“They’ve had some really outstanding games, but football now in high school has become about matchups,” Bartholomew said. “Bradford is a team that we do not match up well with. I think we’re going to have to do some research on how to defend them in the offseason, though we did hold them to 28 points. I was a little disappointed in our tackling, but they’ve got some big guys in space.”
Jenna Dankert’s field goal gave the Knights a 24-21 lead, and a 28-yard run by Roy Harden set up Sinani’s second score for a 31-21 lead midway through the fourth. Bradford responded quickly when Godfrey scored again, but the Knights were able to get the big stop to keep the lead intact.
“We had a great first half, and in the second half we tried to make some adjustments and came out really weak,” said senior defensive back Kamrin Sims, who caught a tipped interception for the game’s only turnover. “The DBs really stepped up when they needed to at the end. We held them in the run game, and next week, we have to step up with the pass.”
That’s an understatement, given Franklin’s penchant for slinging the ball around the field behind junior quarterback Max Alba. The Sabers (9-1) defeated Oak Creek in the regular season, 33-21. But then again, so did Bradford: a 43-42 win over Oak Creek that necessitated a late rally for the Knights to even get into the playoffs. That included the finale against Kenosha Indian Trail, when the aforementioned two-point conversion in the final seconds led to a 29-28 win.
“We had so many turnovers that game, so many fumbles,” Sinani said of the first meeting with Franklin. “We’ve come so far from that.”
Bradford quarterback Tony Martin, who threw for greater than 1,700 yards this season, was in street clothes on the sideline against Oak Creek, replaced by sophomore Cody Tostrud.
Check out Oak Creek's Level 1 victory over Kenosha Bradford through the eyes of JR Radcliffe's Snapchat (jrradcliffe1982)