After his team’s second win in as many games to start the season, North Central head coach Brad Spencer returns to the Red Zone to break down his team’s 56-7 win over Carthage College.
Slow Start for North Central
The first College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) contest for Brad Spencer as North Central head football coach was not supposed to be competitive. However, after the first quarter the Cardinals found themselves tied 7 – 7 with Carthage College on the road in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“We had a slow week of practice to start the week, so it wasn’t too surprising,” Spencer said of the game’s start. “Fortunately our guys worked really hard in the second quarter to wrestle back the momentum.”
Luke Lehnen Gains Confidence
Part of what helped the Cardinals take control was the play of sophomore quarterback Luke Lehnen, who accounted for 312 total yards of offense and two touchdowns in the game.
“He’s still technically an underclassman, a sophomore on the football field,” Spencer said. “So each game he’s going to continue to progress, and as he learns to digest new gameplans each week I think will see his efficiency continue to go up… He did a great job with his legs, and that’s an element he brings that he needs to be able to use and be confident with. It’s tough on a defense when your quarterback can run the way that he runs.”
Lehen’s day could have been even better, but a few deep passes were blown off course by the wind and others were dropped by receivers. Spencer said he feels it’s important to address what led to a missed opportunity immediately after it occurs.
“You want to help them understand that there’s going to be a next play,” Spencer said. “I really believe in diagnosing what went wrong, fix it, and let’s go on to the next play. You have to be where your feet are. You can’t be involved in the next play or the last play, you have to be confident in this play.”
Embarrassment of Riches at Running Back
Six different running backs have featured already this year for the Cardinals, as well as both Lehnen and backup Jake Johnson carrying the ball from quarterback. For the Cardinals’ coaches, the excess of options is a great problem to have.
“I’ll take all the talented young me we can get at every position,” Spencer said of being spoiled for choice in the backfield. “It certainly has been a luxury with the ‘backs that we’ve had… Those guys are all unselfish. They do a great job of carrying on what being a Cardinal football player is and being great glue-people, accepting their role. You never know when you’re number’s going to get called.”
In each of the first two games, the Cardinals defense only allowed points in a single quarter (a trend carried over from last year). Spencer thinks it’s down to both creativity from opposing offenses early in games as well as the Cardinals’ defense’s ability to rapidly adapt.
“Coach Dierking has really been stressing getting off the bus first-play-ready,” Spencer said, referring to defensive coordinator Shane Dierking. “The first drive or two teams are going to have things scripted and have some new plays, so as coaches we’re going to do our best to put our guys in situations where they can execute… I don’t really put that just on the defense, and they did a great job of tightening up and making some adjustments.”
Looking Ahead to North Central Football’s Home Opener
The Cardinals return to Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium this week for their home opener against Elmhurst College, another opportunity for Brad Spencer to record a milestone victory in his first season as head coach.
“It’s nice to be home,” Spencer said. “I think it’s nice for our guys to put on the red jerseys and be at home with the familiar rhythms and patterns we have.”
The Cardinals are trying to stay focused on this week rather than look ahead: next week they host Wheaton in the Battle For the Little Brass Bell, undoubtedly the most difficult game on their schedule.
“Each week you’re concerned about your own house and making sure you’re cleaning up the things you can control,” Spencer said. “We don’t control who we’re playing or what their record is, but we know that we’re gonna get the best from whomever we’re playing… We’re not looking past it, you can’t do that in our conference.”