BYRON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Tradition is a big part of sports. Part of the tradition for Byron’s highly successful football program is a barn.

This is the side of Byron football that we all see. The action that happens at Everett Stine Stadium, but some of the magic of Byron football happens at a place that we don’t see. Right here in this barn in rural Ogle County.

This is where the coaches hold their weekly meetings, usually on Sunday nights to game plan.

They allowed me inside a little over a week ago when they went over their strategy for their second-round playoff opponent Peotone.

“Us coaches, we meet here and game plan and get ready for the week ahead,” said head coach Jeff Boyer.

There’s a big open area adjacent to where the coaches meet, but the real eye opener is the loft upstairs. The stairway painted with the image of the 1999 state championship trophy leads the way to a virtual Byron Football Shrine.

The walls are covered with photos of great moments in Byron history and old newspaper clippings of conquests. There is a display that shows photos of all the All-State players who have come through Byron; a listing of the conference championship teams; another listing of former all-conference players.

The loft is also a big meeting area where the players meet on Thursday nights during the playoffs. There’s usually a guest speaker who addresses them. It’s a tradition that’s been going on since the early 1980s.

“We’d get together, we’d have a guest speaker come talk about the game or just life lessons in general,” said Boyer. We’re trying to make these guys better people.”

“A lot of this stuff was started when coach (Everett) Stine was coaching, coach (Ben) Dalton, Coach (Brad) Miller, and they were looking for ways to elevate the program to a state caliber level.”

There have been a few barns over the years for Byron football.

“The original barn is now a wedding venue, so we kind of got kicked out for a business opportunity which is fine,” said current defensive coordinator and former Byron football player Sean Considine.

In 2014 Considine built this current barn.

Varsity players first come to the barn right before the season starts to put the Tiger Paw decals on their helmets. After that, they can’t return, unless they make the playoffs.

“In order to come to the barn you have to earn it by becoming playoff eligible,” said Considine.

Once the playoffs start, the players are back here every Thursday night. The best part of the barn is all of the brightly painted ladders that surround the loft. Every playoff team gets a ladder with one rung or step representing each game that season. Assistant coach Brad Miller, who has been coaching at Byron for 43 years now, was here when that tradition started in the original barn.

“We were trying to do some different things in the program, and we ended up at a barn that the school had purchased on a property close to the school. We were talking about the steps that were needed to become a state champion. That’s 14 steps, and one of the kids looked over at the ladder that brought us up to the hay mow, and he said, ‘Hey coach, there’s 14 steps on that ladder’, and so we started painting on the steps and it kind of caught on.”

“Each time we come up here, I look at the different ladder rungs and relive some of those plays or the environment that they were in.”

There are two ladders that have all 14 steps, the one from the state championship team in 1999, that’s the one that Boyer and Considine played on, and the recent 2021 state championship team.

“Thinking back of the memories we made that year playing football with my best friends, it was my greatest football experience ever,” said Considine. “That ’99 ladder was special.”

“If you’re a Byron football player over the years, the ladders mean a lot,” said Boyer.

Coach Miller says the tradition of the ladders and a barn aren’t going away anytime soon, if ever. “It’s really something the kids enjoy, so I don’t see us ever stopping it.”

NOTE: The Byron Tigers are the number one ranked 3A team in Illinois with an 11-0 record. They will host the Du-Pec Rivermen in a 3A state quarterfinal game this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Everett Stine Stadium in Byron.