BYRON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — If you’re the Byron Tigers, how do you top what you’ve done the last few years on the football field? The last five playoff seasons they’ve at least reached the state semifinals all five years.

These Tigers check a lot of boxes. Summer commitment for starters.

“This group of kids, freshmen through senior might be the best group we’ve ever had as far as being here all summer. Showing up on time,” said head coach Jeff Boyer

They also check the depth box. There are 40 players on the varsity squad, and they check the experience box when it comes to having seen varsity action.

“Our experience level, there is a few of these kids that started on the ’21 state championship team,” said Boyer. “But there was also a lot of those kids that were practicing with us pretty much the entire year. We had probably 12 of these sophomores now seniors up with us practicing.”

The Tigers did lose a great quarterback, competitor and leader in the graduated Braden Smith, and they lost three offensive linemen who earned all-conference honors last year, but there’s experience back everywhere else. All of the team’s top running backs return. Kye Aken, Ashton Henkel, Brayden Knoll, Carsen Behn, Jacob Ross and Caden Considine who powered his way to a team-high 785 yards rushing as a freshman last year. So, what can he do now as a sophomore?

“We’re going to find out,” said Boyer. “He had a great year last year. In junior tackle he didn’t even carry the ball. He was too big. Last year was actually the first year with the ball in his hands, and I thought he really adapted well and did a good job.”

“I think we’re really deep this year,” said senior running back/cornerback Kye Aken. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can run, carry the ball, run blocks.”

Ayden Shank has the edge on being the starting quarterback this year since he’s a senior.

The defense looks to be set also. The linebacker unit will be strong as usual with Considine in the middle and three-year starter Jacob Ross at one of the outside spots. Ross likes the D-line that’s in front of him.

“I think we look as good as we have the last three years. We’ve got some really good guys on the D-line and we’re excited to see them.”

Braylon Kilduff, Jared Claunch and Josh Harris lead that group. Harris was first team all-conference last season, and Boyer says Harris been attacking the weights.

“He just broke two of our all-time records here this year with the bench record and the squat record.”

“We’re ready to go this year,” said Aken. “Ready to go far as far as we can.”