DeKalb senior safety Donovan Lacey, on the football field at the school Nov. 21, is the Daily Chronicle Football Defensive Player of the Year.
DeKalb senior safety Donovan Lacey, on the football field at the school Nov. 21, is the Daily Chronicle Football Defensive Player of the Year. — Mark Busch -

DeKALB – When DeKalb announced its intention to join the DuPage Valley Conference for football, there were questions – including from the DeKalb School District 428 Board – of whether the Barbs could compete and stay healthy against significantly larger schools.

It turns out Donovan Lacey and the Barbs did just fine.

Not only did the Barbs qualify for the playoffs and go 3-2 in conference, but Lacey was the DVC’s defensive Player of the Year. The senior also is the Daily Chronicle 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.

“It was very surprising and very shocking, but at the same time very humbling,” Lacey said of being named the conference’s top defender. “I know what I’m capable of, and I know my limits. To go out there and play at a high level against very good players and succeed and excel, it was very humbling for them to give me that award.”

Even with teams scheming to keep the ball away from Lacey, he found ways to make plays. He had a team-best 97 tackles, broke up eight passes and had two interceptions.

He also managed to block four kicks.

“It was very much a respect thing to the point where teams would try and scheme their offense around me and try to stay away from me,” Lacey said. “I took that very well; it was a good thing. It prepared me for next year and being able to play at Western [Illinois]. It was kind of hard to try and play in the DVC when I knew they were going to try and attack the outside areas of our defense and stay away from me because I wouldn’t be able to help as much as I could.”

Coach Keith Snyder said he feels Lacey’s play is emblematic of the brand of football he’s trying to continue to build.

“When you think about DeKalb football, Donovan Lacey is exactly the type of player you want to come to mind,” said Snyder, who was defensive coordinator for the Barbs for two years before taking over as the head coach this year. “It’s who he’s been for the last three years. He’s everything we hope people think about when they think of our program.”

The Barbs finished the year 6-4, making the playoffs for the seventh straight year. Playing in Class 7A for the second straight year, they lost again in the opening round of the playoffs, 55-53, to Prospect.

“We most definitely showed the junior, sophomore, freshman classes what it takes and how to play in the DVC,” Lacey said. “They just have to come out and prepare as well or even better than what we did.”

Lacey wasn’t only a defensive threat for the Barbs. He was second on the team with 23 receptions, 473 yards and four touchdowns.

Snyder said Lacey’s ability to make plays speaks volumes to who he is not only as a player, but a person, as well.

“I think it’s just a testament to who he is and the young man his mom raised him to be,” Snyder said. “He’s put in the work, effort and time to be a better player, a better person and a better student. It’s just incredible. He represents what you want it to look like when kids play this game. He plays the game the right way. I can’t tell you how many coaches have come up to me and marveled at what a force he is on the field. It’s a violent game, and he’s a violent player. He did it right, he did it within the rules. He was just a force in both the run and pass game. It’s just the type of player he was.”