By Christopher Johnson


Top-seed Tigers play host in football 3A Opener

Nine wins and no losses earned the Byron Tigers the Big Northern Conference Title this season and allowed them to set up in a strong position for the Class 3A State Football Playoffs, which start this weekend.

The Illinois High School Association’s Selection Committee met this past week and determined which teams across all eight classes were deemed the strongest and most likely to contend for no less than a Semi-Final berth.

Byron, with its perfect mark gets to be home this week and if there are no upsets in the opening round of the 3A Tournament, will be home again in week two, ahead of the 3A Quarterfinal match.

Football enthusiasts had to wait until just after 7:30pm on Saturday, Oct. 23, to see which teams got in and where they would play across Classes 1-8.

Top tier considerations for placement in the field of 32 per class came from taking a look at the numbers. Finding which teams, such as Byron, were undefeated conference champions, was a solid starting point.

The Tigers will get a very good view of the field in front of them because of their efforts during the 2021 fall sports season.

Byron could be looking at not having to travel until week three of the second season as they approach a one game from Semi-Final situation.

The warm-up for the post-season was a chance for a lot of players to get minutes on the field as the Tigers rolled over the Rockford Christian Royal Lions and dropped them to 0-9 on the season with a 74-0 decision.

Byron did what it wanted and completely controlled everything from the opening kick. A 40-0 first quarter margin already assured a quick close to the evening.

The Tigers tacked on 21 more in the second quarter and collected its biggest payday of the season as they entered the break in front 61-0.

A lot of things changed in the third, as the clock ticked non-stop. Back-ups, second-string part-time, both-way activists showcased their own standby abilities.

The Tigers scored seven additional points in the third quarter and found the lead 68-0 with twelve minutes to play.

More attempts to highlight individual performances were kept to a minimum in the final frame as the ball, meticulously moved down field, yet not often across the goal line. That effort wasn’t needed.

Byron pushed the final score to 74-0 and assured they would be the undisputed champion of the Big Northern Conference this season.

The Tigers work this season makes them a prime target for inclusion in talks of potential Semi-Final or State-Championship contender status.

Stopping the Tigers offense will be something the Big Northern Champion’s first round opponent will have to discover this week in the Class 3A post-season premiere.

Upsets can and do occur with much less frequency in the opening rounds of the State Football Playoffs. But given how Byron has played, how stingy its defense has been and its absolute dominance in the Big Northern, it is known to many, they are going places this November.

Following this weekend’s game and if the Class 3A first round games feature no upset for the right to play the Tigers, Byron will be home again to compete on either Saturday, Nov. 6 or under the Friday night lights on Nov. 5.

Cardinals football conquered by Cogs in Big Northern final

Ending the regular season with a 7-2 mark didn’t hurt the chance for the Stillman Valley Cardinals to enter the IHSA Class 4A State Football Playoffs this week with a lot to look forward to, on their way towards the Class 4A State Title round.

Playing through a very tough regular season schedule and coming out still well over the break even point, Stillman Valley’s chances to make it to late October play was fairly secured three weeks ago.

On Friday, October 1, with a full month of regular fall games to go, the Cardinals had secured a qualifying fifth win following a victory over North Boone in Poplar Grove.

The 21-13 decision pushed the Vikings into a tough position as they continued to see their own chances at making it to the post-season diminish with each loss.

At 5-1 and having already faced down formidable foes, playoff points were accumulating and in a hurry for the third-place finishing Stillman Valley Cardinals.

By the end of the 2021 regular fall conference season, five teams finished over the qualifying point by securing a better than .500 season.

Led by Byron, with its perfect 9-0 mark and followed by 8-1 Genoa-Kingston, Stillman Valley stood strong in contention and in third place for much of the late season.

The Cardinals opened the year in a loss to Byron and closed it in a 35-0 decision to Genoa-Kingston. They won everything else this fall.

This past week, as the calendar flipped to the final date on the docket, Stillman Valley traveled to Genoa-Kingston and looked to knock the Cogs out of second place and assume the position themselves.

Genoa-Kingston had different plans and powered its way to the five-touchdown decision, moving to 8-1 on the 2021 season and into the Class 4A State Tournament, with a home opener this weekend.

The Cogs kicked things off showcasing the defense that kept them alive and in pursuit of Byron, even after falling to the Big Northern Champion in week four by a 7-3 score.

A 7-0 edge was collected by the hosts through the first quarter, but they found they wouldn’t be able to tack on anything else and would need a well-structured halftime break to make adjustments.

The score was 7-0 at the break, with 7-1 Stillman Valley still in a strong position to continue to tame the conference’s second most prolific offense.

Success on defense slid in the third for Stillman Valley as Genoa-Kingston started controlling how and when the chains would move.

The end result was a two touchdown period and a 21-0 lead heading into the final period of the regular season.

Stillman valley continued to bend, enough to let the host Cogs collect rewards at the end.

14 points to the score book made it 35-0 with minutes to play in game nine of the regular fall campaign.

Time ran out with the Cogs completing the season with a second place showing in the Big Northern, followed by Stillman Valley in third and Dixon in fourth with a 6-3 record.

North Boone at 5-4 also pushed to the final line to secure a qualifying record in week nine and put itself in the position for consideration for the IHSA State Football Playoffs.

Lady Tigers open 2A Tourney at home

On Monday, Oct. 25, the Illinois High School Association Girls Volleyball State Playoffs began and the Byron Lady Tigers picked up a big boost as they opened at home.

With the regular season wrapping up this past week, following back to back losses within and from without the Big Northern Conference, Byron moved on into second session.

The overall results of the losses at the hands of the Rockford Lutheran Lady Crusaders and Lena-Winslow Lady Panthers dropped Byron to fourth on the closing Big Northern register.

The Lady Tigers 6-3 mark in head-to-head battles was good enough for them to earn their closing position but also pick up the three-seed in the 2A State Tournament.

On Tuesday night, in the Big Northern closer Byron fell to Rockford Lutheran and it was a match that the team learned quickly what not to do.

The end result didn’t allow the Lady Tigers to take down their hosts, but the improvement from the early moments of the contest to the closing stretch was noticeable.

Byron was outplayed in the opening game. Rockford Lutheran got the serve to fall and did a fairly effective job on controlling the front line.

The Lady Crusaders cruised to an early advantage, maintained it and then closed with a successful final stretch, winning game one 25-13.

It wasn’t as easy closing out game one as the team had hoped as the Lady Tigers intensity expanded, regardless of the twelve-point loss in the opener.

Visiting Byron had strong moments in game two on Tuesday night and pushed their hosts to the end before eventually yielding the outcome.

As the two teams pushed through the mid-teens, Byron’s early fixes were being matched by adjustments from the Lady Crusaders backfield.

A small edge grew and Rockford Lutheran made sure it would be enough to collect the win as they held on for the three-point winner, 25-22 to take the night two games to none and end the Byron Big Northern season.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, Byron faced down NUIC-representative Lena-Winslow and discovered the unfamiliar ways of the Lady Panthers.

Lena-Winslow passed well and opened up windows of scoring opportunity. The Lady Panthers paced their way to a fairly comfortable tournament opening game one winner, 20-12.

Byron gave Lena-Winslow a lot more trouble in game two and nearly upended the upstart Lady Panthers, forcing a decisive game three.

The Lady Tigers attacked the net and powered home points in succession to help guide the team to a potential game three winner-take-all shot.

Lena-Winslow reset and re-focused their team efforts. The passing once again moved the ball to advantageous position and the responsive smack down allowed a lead to be re-gained.

By the final moments of game two, Lena-Winslow had pulled out the two-games to none decision with the 20-17 final.

Post-season play greeted Byron on Tuesday, Oct. 26. As the three-seed, the Lady Tigers were given the automatic pass to the Byron Regional Semi-Final.

On Monday, the winner between seven-seed Winnebago and eleven-seed North Boone wrapped up their victory and moved to the round two game.

A win by Byron on Tuesday night was expected over either Big Northern familiar, which pushes Byron into the 2A Regional Championship at home against 32-1-1 Rock Falls with first service set for 6pm.

The victor from the 2A Byron Regional will move on to Oregon for a showdown with probable top-seed Genoa-Kingston on Monday, Nov. 1, in the Sectional Semi-Final.

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