Sam Taviani and Jeske Maples

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Sam Taviani and Jeske Maples discuss North Central Football’s win over Millikin, stepping up in big moments, and a potential conference title.

The Cardinals’ 54-27 victory over Millikin saw them trail in a game for the first time since after Wheaton’s opening drive in the second game of the season, in both cases with the opponent leading 7-0. On if it phased them at all, Taviani said the defense was further motivated by an early score against them, while Maples said the offense knew they had to clean things up after a couple of early turnovers.

Despite the 27 points allowed, the North Central defense had no shortage of big plays in key situations. Taviani credited the veteran experience of the Cardinals defense for the group’s ability to always rise to the occasion.

After two early interceptions, the offense turned to the running game to get things back on track. Maples agreed that it was a confidence boost to have so much talent in both the passing and rushing attacks if one phase isn’t quite working, and he and his fellow offensive linemen helped pave the way for a 358 yard rushing performance.

Sam Taviani plays a unique position, a role that combined elements of linebacker, safety and cornerback popularized at the collegiate level by the likes of Jabril Peppers at Michigan and Isiah Simmons at Clemson. Taviani says he considers himself a hybrid, not fitting into any one particular description, and that his diverse skillset allows him to contribute in a number of different ways on defense.

Both players said they’re excited to take on Washington University and highlighted how much it would mean to clinch at least a share of a CCIW championship.