Brad Spencer on Another Win and History-Making Defense
Things just keep getting better and better for head coach Brad Spencer and the North Central football team. Following a 31-0 win over Washington University, the Cardinals are 7-0 and have a second consecutive College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title in their sights with three games remaining. The team is also playing at such a high level, that they’re rewriting the North Central history books.
“It’s a great win, our guys did a great job and they really bought in to what we were trying to do last week,” said Spencer. “We were trying to control the ball, control the line of scrimmage, and win the turnover battle. And we were able to do all of those things and come away with a good win against a really good football team.”
Many records have been shattered by Cardinals teams and players in recent years as the team has achieved previously unprecedented success. But with a third straight shutout, the Cardinals defense is rolling back the years all the way to 1946 to find the last time they did that, an accomplishment that’s hard to even put into context.
“Yeah that’s a long time ago, a little after my grandpa was playing for the Cardinals,” Spencer said with a laugh. “Our defense is just doing a great job and I think we played some really good complementary football on Saturday. The defense only defended 24 snaps in the first half, had some really timely turnovers in the red zone, and just did a great job.”
Much of the Cardinals’ recent record breaking has been done on the offensive side of the ball, earning North Central a well-deserved reputation as an offensive juggernaut. But with their recent play, the defense deserves just as much praise and recognition as a part of what makes this team special. Part of that, Brad Spencer says, is the way the two units try to constantly outdo one another as well as how they push each other every day in practice.
“We feel like iron sharpens iron,” said Spencer. “Coach Dierking and his entire staff deserve a lot of credit, always have. Even going back to 2019 when we won the national title they played some great football down the stretch in the playoffs and I feel like they’ve just continued to do that. We’ve seen a lot of guys on the defensive side of the ball step up and improve every week, and that’s been a lot of fun.”
BJ Adamchik and Zack Orr Step Up
Two of the players who have taken big steps on defense this year, and also this week’s player guests on the Red Zone, are sophomores BJ Adamchik and Zack Orr who are both in their first seasons as starters. Adamchik, a linebacker, leads the Cardinals with 49 total tackles and, along with fellow new sophomore starter Angelo Cusumano, has filled a hole left over from last year’s defense to excellent effect.
“Number one is his work ethic,” Spencer said of what stands out about Adamchik. “From day one he’s been a worker and he studies the game, knows the game and knows what the defense is gonna do. He had great role models last year in Storm Simmons and Ben Wong and he’s taken what they did and applied it to his own game. Every single week he just gets better, Angelo’s the same way, and you’re starting to see them both make a lot of plays.”
Meanwhile, Zack Orr, who has played in a variety of positions in the defensive backfield this year, leads the Cardinals with three interceptions including one of the red zone turnovers Spencer mentioned. Those takeaways have all come in the last four games as Orr develops into a ball-hawk from the safety position.
“He’s certainly in the right place at the right time,” said Spencer. “He’s another guy this year who has really stepped up. We saw it in camp that he was playing more physical and aggressive, and because of it his role has expanded… For defensive guys if the ball comes your way, you’ve gotta catch it, you’ve gotta make plays and he’s doing that. Certainly Saturday his interception in the end zone was extremely timely.”
Luke Lehnen and DeAngelo Hardy Continue to Excel
Meanwhile, for the Cardinals vaunted offense, quarterback Luke Lehnen completed his first 14 passes against the Bears, a credit to Brad Spencer play-calling, offensive execution and the confidence with which the sophomore is currently playing.
“We’re just trying to put him in a position where he can succeed,” Spencer said of Lehnen. “It’s the number one rule of coaching to ask your kids to do things you know they can do, but that’s Luke. He’s doing, I’m not making the plays for him. He’s making the plays, he’s reading the defenses. Our run game is a great complement to him, and certainly his ability to run the ball himself is a great complement. He’s a hard guy to defend.”
Lehnen was responsible for all four of North Central’s touchdowns in the win, with all three passing touchdowns going to DeAngelo Hardy. Hardy was named CCIW Offensive Player of the Week not only for scoring three times, but for doing so in astonishing style outrunning opponents and leaping through the air to reach the end zone. As a former great Cardinals receiver himself, Spencer can fully appreciate just how special Hardy is.
“Well if he was around when I was, I wouldn’t have been playing much,” joked Spencer. “He’s an extremely smart football player and a great athlete. We’re very thankful and fortunate to have him. He’s super down to earth and works his butt off. He had a great game Saturday and it seemed like every time he touched the football you didn’t know what was gonna happen… There’s a reason people at the higher level are calling me every week about him.”
A Very Different Opponent This Week
This week, the Cardinals go from facing an undefeated team to one without a win in North Park, who the Cardinals have scored a combined 161 points against in their two most recent meetings. But for Brad Spencer, his fellow coaches and the players, there is always something to be learned and improved upon no matter the opponent.
“Every week you can get better,” Spencer said, adding that the team feels they can improve from this past weekend’s victory. “There’s still places we can get better in all three phases, so just like every week that’s going to be our focus. Regardless of who’s standing across the field, you need to worry about your input and what you’re doing to prepare and get one-percent better every single week… I’d expect fans to see the same Cardinal football they see every week.”