IHSA football state championship recap: Byron beats Tolono Unity for Class 3A title

·4 min read
The Byron football team celebrates after winning the Class 3A state championship game on Friday, November 26, 2021 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

The Byron Tigers beat the Tolono Unity Rockets 35-7 to win the championship game of the Illinois High School Association Class 3A football playoffs.

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

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

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

Byron semifinal: Byron scores on 4th down, makes conversion at :05 to squeeze into title game

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

Tiger tough: Tough spring season put Byron on track toward football state title

'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

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