Luke Lehnen and Angelo Cusumano Lead the Way
Sophomore quarterback Luke Lehnen and sophomore linebacker Angelo Cusumano have both been vital contributors to early success for North Central this season. For Lehnen, it’s familiar territory in his second season as the team’s starter at QB, while it’s represented a step up for Cusumano in his first year starting.
“I think they’ve definitely felt a little bit different, definitely a little more comfortable this year,” said Lehnen. “Last year everything was a little bit hectic for me, first college appearances on a pretty good team, going against a team like Wheaton in Week 2. But I think this year I’m definitely more confident, more comfortable, for those big games early on. Like Wheaton being early again this year, I think it was more calm for it.”
Cusumano and fellow sophomore linebacker B.J. Adamchik have filled the sizeable shoes of Ben Wong and Storm Simmons, but along with senior Sam Taviani have helped the linebacking corps not lose a step.
“Having the past two years under Ben and Storm’s wings, they really showed us the way,” Cusumano said. ” So filling the shoes was a lot easier thanks to having them the last tow years. So working together and having Sam Taviani help us out along the way made things a lot easier.”
Much like the linebacking group, the wide receiver group has seen significant change this year as well with the graduation of four senior contributors. The change has required Lehnen to take on a greater leadership role, but that’s a natural progression as he gains more experience.
“I definitely think this year I’ve become more of the leader for the team, a more vocal leader,” said Lehnen, who is naturally a bit more soft-spoken. “Last year with the receivers we already had Andrew Kamienski, Blake Williams, Khori Blair and Matt Metz all there who had been there for four years. This year I’ve definitely seen myself become more of a leader with helping guys out when they’re unsure of something, giving them a confidence boost if they make a mistake, just little things like that. I’m very appreciative of the group I have, they’re doing a fantastic job so far and I’m excited for the rest of the season with them.”
Playing Their Best Football So Far
In the last two weeks, Cusumano has an interception each against Wheaton and Carroll. They were similar plays with Cusumano in zone coverage, with his focus on the quarterback to anticipate where the ball was headed.
“For the Wheaton one it was more of a rollout so I was just trying to match the quarterback and get between him and his receiver,” Cusumano explained. “I saw his eyes light up when he went to throw the ball so I just tried to grab it and do the best I could. Same with Carroll, I was dropping back and I saw the quarterback looking right at the receiver and just got in the passing window.”
For Lehnen’s part, he threw four touchdowns on just 10 completions plus two long completions to DeAngelo Hardy. It was his best performance yet in a season that’s been a bit up-and-down at times.
“I felt like I was on fire in that game even though I only threw like twelve passes,” Lehnen said. “It just made me feel good and more confident in my abilities. The first four games of the season I felt like I hadn’t been playing at the level I should be. So this game definitely makes me feel a lot better about how I’ve been playing.”
The Cardinals are in the same place they were last year at this point: five wins and five games. Drawing comparisons between seasons is thus natural, though they can’t look ahead too much to yet another Stagg Bowl appearance.
“For me this season is a little bit different from going from a backup spot to going into a starter spot, so that’s been a little bit different,” Cusumano said. “So that’s been a little bit different to me, otherwise it’s felt pretty similar. It’s been a long season with the bye week in Week 1 so just trying to keep our eyes on the goal.”
“It seems similar because our goal is winning football games, and we’ve been winning a lot of football games since I’ve been here,” said Lehnen. “But we’ve just gotta keep getting better every week.”