Byron Tigers hope this will be their year at State

High School Football

BYRON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –The Byron Tigers are hoping the third time is the charm. The Tigers are making their third straight trip to the 3A State Championship game Friday in DeKalb hoping for a different outcome than they had in 2018 and 2019.

The playoffs are an emotional roller coaster. The Byron Tigers have seen it all. They’ve had two amazing comeback wins the last two weeks in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, but they also know what it’s like to be on the losing end of big games.

In 2018 at State Byron was leading Monticello 14-10 late in the third quarter, but the Tigers lost 24-20.

In 2019 they led Williamsville by ten points with under four minutes to play, and they lost 46-44.  Winning a championship requires four full quarters of sound football.

“There’s no doubt about it, especially that game in ’19 against Williamsville,” said Byron head coach Jeff Boyer. “We were up with four minutes to go and ended up losing that game, but like you said it’s about playing four quarters.”

Most of the seniors this year were dressed for that 2019 game. They’ve learned from it.

“Just leave it all on the field and give it everything you’ve got,” said lineman Jake Lenz. “I know I was on the field in 2019 and it just sucks when those seniors have gone through that, so we want to make sure it doesn’t happen this year.”

Maybe this is the Tigers’ year. Their comeback wins the last two weeks do leave the impression that they could be a team of destiny.

“It does feel that way,” said Byron linebacker and running back Andrew Claunch. I think a lot of people thought that it wasn’t our year this year. It feels good to prove people wrong and to prove ourselves wrong a bit as well, because at the beginning of the year we had a lot of positions that weren’t filled. We had a lot of kids that had to step up and fill those positions.”

The Tigers will face a different opponent in the championship game this Friday, 13-0 Tolono Unity from near Champaign. The Rockets, like the Tigers, have shown they’re a gritty team with a knack for comebacks.

“Yea they’ve had some tough games down the stretch here,” said Boyer. “The Williamsville game in the quarterfinals…Williamsville is a great program, and then last week also against Mt. Carmel they had to come from behind to win that game and got that done.”

For the Tigers, it’s simply rinse-and-repeat what they’ve been doing for the last 13 weeks

“We’ve just got to do what we’ve been doing all year,” said Claunch. “Why change it up, it’s gotten us this far.”

Friday’s 3A championship game will kickoff at 4 p.m. at NIU’s Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

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