DeKALB – In the end, there was just no stopping the Byron High School football team.
During the 2021 season many had tried, but all had failed. And that includes Tolono-Unity, who met Byron in the IHSA Class 3A Championship game on Nov. 26 in DeKalb. The Tigers sent a message early and never let up, winning the state championship 37-7.
“I am just so proud of all of these kids and all of the hard work that they have put into this program,” said Head Coach Jeff Boyer. “Their hard work paid off and they have made a lifetime of memories.”
And what memories: The win not only sealed the championship for Byron, but also a perfect – and dominant – season. The Tigers were 14-0 overall, and 9-0 in the Big Northern Conference. The team scored 587 points on the season and gave up just 149.
Making it this far was not new for the Tigers. Byron also made it to the championship game in 2019 but fell to Williamsville 46-42.
That was not going to happen this year.
The Tigers came out strong, with Senior Ethan Palzkill scoring on a 32-yard pass from Braden Smith early in the game. Byron also scored twice in the second quarter – a 2-yard run by Senior Andrew Claunch and a 1-yard run by Smith – which was ultimately all the Tigers needed.
Tolono-Unity scored once in the third, but Palzkill put the exclamation point on the win – and championship – with scoring runs of 20-yards and 5-yards in the fourth.
“The post season run that this team had was a storybook finish,” Boyer said. “They won two games in the last 10 seconds and were able to cap it off with a State Championship. The Byron Community will be talking about this for a long time.”
For the game, Palzkill had 9 carries for 78 yards. Byron was led by Senior Chandler Binkley, a highlight player all season, who had 178 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Defensively, Claunch had three solo tackles and three assists, Smith had three solo tackles and three assists, and Palzkill had four solo tackles and one assist.