Sycamore sizzles in handing Kaneland 1st loss
Kaneland's first game in the Interstate Eight Conference came against a familiar foe Friday on top of its game.
Sycamore showed up in Maple Park with senior running back/safety Manny Dominguez back in its lineup after playing just one series the first two weeks, and with coach Joe Ryan opening up the playbook a little more for quarterback Grant McConkey.
The result was a near perfect game for the senior QB who completed all 11 of his passes in the first half. The Spartans stunned Kaneland, the No. 10 ranked team in Class 6A, with the first 21 points on their way to a convincing 35-14 victory.
"Offense is a lot about rhythm and we haven't been in a rhythm offensively for the first two weeks," Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. "We got in a rhythm tonight and good things happen when you do that."
McConkey set the tone on the opening drive, continually getting his team in third-and-short situations. The Spartans converted one after another, finishing 6 of 7 in the first half.
The only time they didn't make it, they went for it on 4th-and-2. McConkey found Ben Herrmann for 11 yards, and three plays later he again came through on 3rd-and-goal with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dominguez for a 7-0 lead.
"I thought our kids executed real well on third downs," Ryan said. "Those are huge things to do against a really good team."
After holding Kaneland (2-1, 0-1), Sycamore got the ball back on its own 2-yard line and proceeded to march 98 yards in 10 plays, taking a 14-0 lead on a 1-yard Dominguez run.
Sycamore (2-1, 1-0) again scored on its third possession, this time a 3-yard run by Kyle Antos to make it 21-0 with 4:40 left before halftime.
"They were able to move the ball and were effective and we need to tackle better and cover the pass better," Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. "It was a total team effort out there tonight."
Wilson Giffney got Kaneland on the scoreboard just before halftime with a 2-yard touchdown run. The Knights finally stopped Sycamore in the third quarter and made it a 1-possession game when Smith followed a 46-yard completion to Colton Doll with a 10-yard touchdown run on the final play of the quarter.
Within 21-14, that momentum didn't last long as McConkey put the Spartans back in the end zone 78 seconds later, a 3-play drive that he capped with a 27-yard TD run up the middle. Four minutes later, McConkey ended the scoring with a 31-yard strike to Gavin Crofoot to restore the 21-point spread.
"We felt like we were right back in it and I felt like we had a lot of energy and then we self destructed a little bit," Pat Ryan said. "They are an exceptionally well coached, disciplined football team and they played really well."
McConkey finished 13-of-14 for 240 yards, the only pass he didn't complete going off his receiver's hands into Trevor Carlson's for an interception. McConkey also ran for 56 yards as Sycamore outgained Kaneland 483-278.
Smith threw for 228 yards on 16-of-36 passing, finding Max Gagne 8 times for 101 yards. A few other long passes just missed, the kind of strikes Kaneland needed to keep pace with Sycamore.
"We've got to connect on those plays," Pat Ryan said. "We had too many big plays we didn't connect on tonight. We were a step too slow or it went through our hands. We have to make those plays if we want to win big football games."