BYRON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — In recent years, the Byron Tigers have been the most dominant program in the Big Northern conference and in Class 3A. All the pieces seem to be falling into place for the defending state champions ahead of this season. But it’s a new year, and that means it’s time for a new story.

Talk about a storybook ending to the 2021 season. But it’s a new year and that means a new mentality for head coach Jeff Boyer and the rest of his team.

“We’ve made it very clear that we are 0 and 0 right now,” said Boyer.

But with any championship team, it’s important to remember what got you there and to try and emulate that moving forward into a new season.

“When we played those games down the stretch, we weren’t the biggest, fastest, strongest, most athletic team, but we had a group of kids that didn’t make mistakes and learned how to play as a team,” said Boyer on his team’s performance at the end of last season.

Braden Smith is coming into his senior season, which will be his third at starting quarterback. Last year he was first team all-conference and the expectation for him is big.

“You know he really made some huge strides last year as a junior, but you know if he takes another step like that this year, he’s going to be a great player,” said Boyer.

And Smith feels the same. He knows there’s still more he can do on the field this season.

“Personally, I want to do the same thing as last year and do more, you know what, do everything better. Last year I thought I had a decent season, but I think I can do better,” said Smith.

One of Byron’s biggest strengths is their depth and versatility. Some of the key contributions this season will come from Kye Aken, Tyler Reed on the offensive line, and Jacob Ross at outside linebacker. Senior running back and linebacker James Cone is another one of those guys coach Boyer is expecting to make an impact this season, especially as a leader of this team.

“Get better every day, we make a slip, get better, learn from it, and grow every day,” said Cone on his goals for this season.

One new addition to the roster this year is freshman Caden Considine, the oldest son of defensive coordinator Sean Considine. He’ll be someone to keep an eye on in the next four years.

It’s very apparent that there is no “I” in this team. They are focused on supporting each other and working hard, continuing to write their own legacy.

“We are just going to write our own legacy and we are going to use last year as a whole new learning experience, which sounds weird. But we are going to use it as a learning experience to what we can do this year,” said Smith.