Both in their historic run of shutouts and throughout the season, plenty of different players have contributed to the North Central defense’s ability to keep opponents off the scoreboards. Two players who have stepped up in particular are sophomores BJ Adamchik at linebacker and Zack Orr at defensive back. Both players are first-year starters, but are playing at a level that belies their inexperience. But in their third year on campus, they’ve had no shortage of time and preparation before stepping into the roles they’ve been asked to play this season.
Adamchik and Orr on Growing Into Their Roles
“Being here for three years is huge help, so we’re just exposed to the playbook year-in and year-out,” Adamchik said, with the pandemic-canceled season having not counted towards players’ athletic eligibility. “It helps that Coach Dierking, who’s going to get a big-time college offer sometime soon is still here. We’re first-year starters, but it helps that we’ve been in a system where we’ve got really veteran guys who know their stuff. For me being an inside ‘backer, Ben and Storm were huge last year, still having [Sam] Taviani around, all those guys were huge for coaching up the young guys and getting us to where we are.”
“Yeah that [extra] year was really huge for me, especially,” agreed Orr, who said he frequently Facetimed with Dierking during that first year when the team couldn’t meet in person. “He would teach us the playbook and we got to meet all the other guys that are in our class so that really helped.”
Not only are both players new starters, but they’re also in positional pairs with players who are new to starting roles as well. Adamchik is the fellow inside linebacker of Angelo Cusumano, while Orr has most frequently lined up at safety next to Julian Bell. Those relationships are both a work in progress, but also founded in shared experience.
“Me and Julian have developed a really good relationship,” Orr said of Bell, who returned to the program this year after a year away. “We’re always trying to find ways to make each other better. Right now we’re trying to find ways to pursue the football better, so we’re trying to come up with a rewards system for who can get there the fastest.”
“I came in with Angelo the same year so we’ve gone through this experience together, which helped us bond a lot,” said Adamchik of he and Cusumano’s partnership. “We’re together all the time, we’re running the same plays. We’re working on our communication, so it really just helps that we’re going through the same thing and we’re in it together.”
There are a couple veterans remaining in the defensive backfield to guide the inexperienced players along, particularly senior linebacker Sam Taviani and junior cornerback Nic Rummell.
“I would say it’s kind of like having a safety blanket, you know?” Adamchik said of playing next to Taviani. “Angelo and I are still coming into our own as players, but having Tavi’ there if we make the wrong call or aren’t running the right coverage, he’ll get us in check. Half the time he makes the play before we do so it’s a big safety net having him out there as someone who’s experienced and is an animal when it comes to physicality.”
“He’s definitely helped me a lot too, because I played nickel too before moving to safety,” Orr said of Taviani’s influence on him as well. “When I’m down he picks me up and he’s always trying to keep me at my best. And then Rummell, he might not say a lot, but he is a really a great leader and he leads by example really well.”
Both players have had excellent individual season as key pieces of one of the best defenses in the country. Adamchik leads the team in tackles with 49, while Orr leads them with three interceptions (all in the last four games).
“It means I’m doing my job, it means I’m trying to be great within the framework of the defense,” said Adamchik of his success this season. “Fortunately, I’m not out there by myself. We have one of the best defensive lines in the country, if not the best. So playing behind them makes my life really easy. They’re eating up double teams and getting to the quarterback, so I’m out there just running free and doing what I can to help.”
“It’s definitely a different view of the field back there, but everybody’s doing their job and I’m doing my 1/11th and making the plays that need to be made when they present themselves,” said Orr.
An Atmosphere of Excellence
Football is far from the only team within North Central athletics currently having an excellent season. Men’s soccer recently clinched a CCIW regular season championship and both they and women’s soccer are nationally ranked. The cross country teams are among the nation’s best as always, and triathlon are vying for a national championship. It’s a particularly exciting time to be a Cardinals, with student athletes able to feed off the energy that permeates the various teams.
” Yeah it’s a great vibe,” said Orr. “Everything’s clicking for everyone so it’s awesome to see everyone being successful. They come out to support us, so we try to do the same for them.”
“It’s really fun,” Adamchik agreed. “It’s fun to go to a school where winning is just a part of what the school does. It really helps build a community at North Central.”