NORMAL – Byron didn’t let Mt. Carmel catch its breath.
The Tigers entered Friday’s Class 3A state championship game against the Golden Aces needing 52 points to break the IHSA record for points in a season and almost reached the mark by halftime with an offensive performance to remember.
Junior running back Brayden Knoll’s 34-yard sprint to the end zone on Byron’s opening possession of the second half made IHSA history, and the Tigers cruised to a 69-7 win to capture the program’s third state title and second in the past three years.
The Tigers finished the season with a state-record 823 points, while also posting the biggest margin of victory in any IHSA state title game.
Byron (14-0) simply was on another level.
“Early on, we knew we had to keep the pedal to the metal, and that’s what we did,” sophomore fullback Caden Considine said. “We broke their spirits, and the score says the rest.”
Byron led 49-0 at halftime, rolling up 378 rushing yards on 30 carries. They finished with 531 yards on 53 carries, a yard short of the record for a 3A title game.
In the blowout win, Byron also set the state record for most touchdowns in a season with 123, previously held by Peoria (116). The Tigers just missed tying the record for points in a state title game (70).
Freshman quarterback Andrew Talbert ran for 154 yards on five carries, scoring three first-half touchdowns. His longest run went for a 77-yard score.
Byron forced four turnovers in the first half, including two interceptions by senior defensive back Kye Aken. His second INT was a one-handed tip to himself near the sideline, leading to Byron’s seventh and final score of the first half on a 17-run by Considine, who had 153 yards on 17 carries and two scores.
Mt. Carmel coach Michael Brewer was impressed by the physicality of Byron’s offensive line, led by junior left guard Jared Claunch (5-foot-11, 240 pounds) and junior left tackle Nolan Brass (6-3, 300).
“Man, they get off the ball hard, they get a fantastic push and just play really physical at the point of attack,” Brewer said. “I think they were as good as we thought they were. That was the very first thing that stood out (watching film), just how physical they were.
“I thought, early on, we had some times where we were moving the ball, but it came down to early turnovers.”
The Tigers’ defense held standout senior quarterback Blayne Sisson to 4-of-14 passing for only 15 yards, including two interceptions and a fumble. The Illinois commit did his most damage on the ground, running for 149 yards on 16 carries.
Sisson entered the game with almost 4,000 total yards and 51 touchdowns.
Considine led the Byron defense with four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Junior Dillon Shank had a forced fumble and senior Carter Groharing added an interception.
Byron led 56-0 on Knoll’s touchdown with 8:44 left in the third before the Aces got on the scoreboard on a Sisson 81-yard touchdown run.
“(Sisson) is a special player,” Byron coach Jeff Boyer said. “Defensively, I think our team speed certainly showed tonight. Our kids were able to keep them in check.”
Sisson, who had turnovers on Mt. Carmel’s first two possessions, took the blame for his team’s slow offensive start.
“I take full responsibility for that,” he said. “The first two possessions, that was completely my fault. I fumbled and threw the ball right to the defender. That’s not how you want to start a game. That’s on me, not anybody else.”
Brass said the Tigers’ work from the offseason paid off in a big way Friday.
Byron completed its third perfect season in program history.
“We worked for this all summer,” Brass said. “We get those mental reps down, keep rolling every day and do the same thing every day for games like this.”