Sycamore went 4-0 in morning pool play, and went on to win the championship of the 10-team event, which also featured DeKalb. The Barbs went 5-1, falling to Sycamore in the semifinals.
"I thought he threw the ball really well, and he has done a nice job throwing the ball," Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. "I think he has got a lot better in the passing game, to be honest. That was huge." McConkey as a junior threw for 797 yards and ran for 743, helping lead Sycamore to an 8-3 record and second round of the playoffs. In the offseason he's attended a couple camps, including one at Don Beebe's House of Speed in Aurora. McConkey's also been a regular in the weight room, which has appeared to pay dividends.
"My arm has definitely got stronger," McConkey said. "I can throw it a lot further and just presnap reading the defense I've improved overall." He's also become more patient in the passing game. A 7-on-7 environment allows for that a little more, but Ryan has seen a growing maturity in his talented quarterback.
Don't look for Sycamore to tilt its offense too far toward the passing side of things, but McConkey's progress does provide more options.
"Whatever the game calls for, we want to be able to do," Ryan said. "He's like another running back and you have to account for that. That's hard on defenses, when you can throw too." McConkey will have plenty of talent around him, with eight starters back on offense and another seven or eight on defense. A new shotgun package Sycamore has put in will allow McConkey to showcase his skill set.
"We have a lot of different options," McConkey said. "In the shotgun we can do a lot of different things. We've started throwing a little bit more in practice." While McConkey was at the controls of Sycamore's offense, Donovan Lacey continues to grow into his role as leader of the DeKalb defense. The Barbs, too, were in action Friday at West Aurora.
Lacey, who's played somewhat of a hybrid safety/outside linebacker position for DeKalb in the past, is expected to add slot receiver to his duties this fall. He also thinks of himself as a big brother to the younger guys.
"That's not only way in the way I compete, but the way I do things," Lacey said, "taking everything we get from coach and giving it to the younger kids." DeKalb coach Keith Snyder couldn't ask for a better guy to serve in that mentor role.
"He leads by his actions," Snyder said. "People look to Donovan because his actions speak first. He has a very diverse skill set and we try to utilize that." Lacey received his first scholarship offer from Eastern Illinois in April, a preferred walk-on offer from Northern Illinois in June and an offer from Judson later in June.
He played safety his freshman year, outside linebacker the last seasons. Sometimes he'll look like he's lining up at corner in DeKalb's defense, sometimes safety or linebacker to maximize his athleticism.
"Being able to be moved around to different positions shows the coaches trust you," Lacey said. "I don't like to restrict myself to one position and one area of the field." That means adding a little offense to his tool set, which sounds just fine to Lacey.
"Touchdowns and interceptions," Lacey said with a smile, "that's what I'm looking for this year."
AURORA – Grant McConkey has always been a good runner, making him a dynamic dual threat at quarterback for Sycamore.
The passing has caught up.
That's bad news for Spartans' opponents, and was on display Friday. McConkey was sharp throwing the ball at the West Aurora Adrenaline 7-on-7.
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