State Preview: Byron vs. Tolono Unity, Class 3A state title game

Here’s a closer look at the two teams squaring off in the Class 3A title game.

Byron (13-0)

Head coach: Jeff Boyer (89-25, 10 years)

Last State Title Game Appearance: 2019, Lost against Williamsville 46-42 (Class 3A)

The Path to State

defeated Catalyst/Maria 58-0

defeated Lisle 34-14

defeated Reed-Custer 28-24

defeated IC Catholic 15-14

Offensive stalwart

Chandler Binkley, RB: Binkley has been nails in the postseason coming up with scores in the final 10 seconds of both Byron’s quarterfinal win over Reed-Custer and semifinal victory over IC Catholic. Byron’s running game has a number of viable options, but when tough yards are needed odds are Binkley’s getting the ball.

Defense stalwart

Andrew Claunch, LB: Byron’s defensive players don’t have a lot of gaudy statistics because the Tigers tend to get opponents off the field quickly and keep the ball for long stretches. But Claunch is the lynch pin in the attack when Byron does find themselves in tight jams.

The wildcard

Braden Smith, QB: The Tigers still don’t throw very much, but they can put it in the air in situations other than dire ones. Smith has completed just 30 passes this season, but 12 have gone for scores and in tight situations Byron has shown more of a willingness to put it in the air.

Stat Book

Byron has held 10 of its 13 opponents to two touchdowns or less this season.

• The Tigers have run for over 4,000 yards this season.

• Byron has reached three consecutive Class 3A title games, losing matchups to Williamsville (2019) and Monticello (2018).

The skinny

Byron definitely has its playoff mojo going at a high level right now and hopes to ride that momentum right into a state championship trophy. Obviously, the Tigers would have liked to sew up wins earlier than they have the last two weeks but showing an ability to pull wins out of the fire could help the confidence if things don’t go exactly to plan early in the title game.

Tolono Unity (13-0)

Head coach: Scott Hamilton (262-64, 28 years)

Last State Title Game Appearance: 2015, lost against Bishop McNamara 50-7 (Class 3A)

The Path to State

defeated Newton 46-6

defeated Paxton-Buckley-Loda 21-14

defeated Williamsville 28-7

defeated Mt. Carmel 28-21

Offensive stalwart

Matt Brown, RB: The durable Brown has been a real workhorse for the Rockets, averaging about 20 carries per week for Tolono and the workload as gotten heavier as the opponent quality has risen. He’s answered the bell each time posting 1,776 rushing yards with 21 scores.

Defense stalwart

Nat and Nick Nosier, DB’s: The Nosier brothers are 1-2 in tackles for the Rockets with Nat leading the way with 104 tackles and Nick close behind with 97.

The wildcard

Blake Kimball, QB: Kimball is an extremely dangerous quarterback because one can never be quite sure how he might be able to victimize a defense. He’s thrown for 1,873 yards and ran for another 1,041 on the season.

Stat Book

Unity has put up just short of 300 points in the first half of games this season.

• Unity’s offense has put up almost 5,400 yards of total offense.

• Unity would like to reverse a trend in state title games as the Rockets are 0-5 all-time in final games.

The skinny

Unity has put together a very nice season thus far and has done a nice job of simply fending off teams that might push it a little bit. In this title matchup Unity faces another team that has a long-standing postseason pedigree and won’t like be rattled easily if things should get a little rocky.