Byron (14-0), champion of the Big Northern Conference, won its second championship all-time after four-point losses in 2018 and '19. Championship coach Jeff Boyer was the quarterback when Byron won the state title in 1999.
Unity (13-1) is the champion of the Illini Prairie Conference. The Rockets' program now is winless in six title game appearances: 2021, '15, '12, '09, '05 and '00.
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5:56 p.m. – Ethan Palzkill charges in for 35-7 lead
Byron's defense stops Tolono on the Tigers-5, and then Ethan Palzkill charges in for a TD on the first play as the Tigers take a 35-7 lead late in the fourth quarter. Looking good for Byron.
Byron 35, Tolono 7 | 5:24 fourth quarter
5:50 p.m. – Tigers stuffed on 1, but up big
Tolono's defense stuffed Byron on the 1-yard line, but have a long way to go to catch up, down 28-7 with 6:34 left in the game. Byron has owned the clock with five long drives in the game.
Byron 28, Tolono 7 | 6:34 fourth quarter
On field with Chandler Binkley after Byron WINS state title… pic.twitter.com/UclVurkGQV
— Jay Taft (@JayTaft) November 27, 2021
5:40 p.m. –Tiger D with the stuff
Byron's defense comes up big, stuffing Tolono on a fourth down on their own 22 with 1:18 left in the third quarter to hang on to the lead. The third quarter ends with the Tigers up by 21 points.
Byron 28, Tolono 7 | End of third quarter
5:31 p.m. – Another drive, another Byron TD
Braden Smith pitches nicely to Ethan Palzkill who rambles 20 yards for a touchdown and a 28-7 lead for Byron early in the third quarter. The Tigers are 4-for-5 on finishing drives with a TD so far in the 3A title game.
Byron 28, Tolono 7 | 5:31 third quarter
5:03 p.m. — Byron builds lead to 20-7 at half
After three long, time-consuming drives, the Byron Tigers took a 21-0 lead on a QB sneak with 18 seconds left. However, Tolono took the ball 62 yards in four plays and scored on a 37-yard TD pass to Dillon Rutledge as time expired on the second quarter the make it a game.
Byron still led 20-7 headed into the halftime locker room of the 3A state title football game. Touchdowns from Ethan Palzkill, Andrew Claunch and Braden Smith have the Tigers out front.
Byron 20, Tolono 7 | Halftime
4:33 p.m. – Andrew Claunch plows in
— Jay Taft (@JayTaft) November 26, 2021
Fullback Andrew Claunch highlights a 15-play drive by Byron as they take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. Two plays later, Braden Smith recovers a fumble and the Tigers are back in action near midfield.
Byron 14, Tolono Unity 0 | 10:40 second quarter
4:10 p.m. – Byron drives right down the field
Byron takes its opening possession and drives it right down and scores in five plays on a 33-yard pass from Braden Smith to Ethan Palzkill.
Byron 7, Tolono Unity 0 | 8:43
Two hungry football programs
It may be tricky to find two hungrier football teams in this year's state championship showdowns in DeKalb than Byron and Tolono Unity.
Byron has dropped the last two 3A state championship games by four points each. Unity is 0-5 in state championship games.
Now, one will take home the crown.
Game preview: Byron vs. Tolono Unity
'Unreal. Unbelievable game'
The Byron Tigers are not known for their late-game, fast-strike offense. Not until the past two games, and especially the final 3:42 of Saturday's semifinal win.
But all of the sudden, in their last two games, Byron went from wearing down teams with the ground-and-pound to back-to-back, two-minute-drill-filled comebacks.
The inside story: How Byron engineered its semifinal comeback
Byron vs. Unity pregame news
Tolono Unity semifinal: Rockets beat Mount Carmel to advance to championship
Byron quarterfinal: Byron football back in state semifinals after dramatic TD in final seconds
'That's Byron': Unbeaten Tigers show why they're class of the Big Northern
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: IHSA state football championship: Byron vs. Tolono Unity 3A game recap