FOOTBALL

Byron football played a perfect offensive game in its playoff blowout of undefeated Seneca

Matt Trowbridge
Rockford Register Star
Byron quarterback Braden Smith (3) runs around left end for a first down as Seneca also has to worry about a pitch to Brayden Knoll )1) during Byron's 56-21 second-round Class 3A football playoff win Friday in Seneca.

SENECA — Seneca fooled Byron’s defense, leading to runs of 74, 53 and 49 yards.

“They are the best faking team we have seen in the state,” Byron quarterback/defensive back Braden Smith said. “If you watch them on film, they’ve got four guys running to different places and you don’t know who’s got the ball.”

Byron can fool defenses, too. And Byron runners can juke out defenders. But those are plans B and C. Plan A for defending state champion Byron has always been to overpower teams with physical running backs and punishing blockers.

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A previously unbeaten Seneca team learned that the hard way Friday night as the Byron offense was literally unstoppable in a 56-21 second-round Class 3A playoff victory.

“We moved the ball on them well but couldn’t slow them down on defense,” Maxwell said.

He didn’t say the Irish (10-1) couldn’t stop the Tigers. He said they couldn’t even slow them down. He was right.

Byron ran the ball 56 times Friday for 477 yards and 33 first downs. Only three of those runs went for more than 15 yards. But only two of them went for less than 3 yards. And Byron scored touchdowns all eight times it got the ball until kneeling twice to end the game after getting inside the Seneca 10-yard line on its final drive.

“We had a plan,” said Kye Aken, who ran for 64 yards, gaining at least 9 yards on all five of his carries. “We knew what we were supposed to do and we executed it perfectly. You have to give a lot of credit to the line. They pushed everybody. They fired off our front. They are big and strong. All credit to them, man.”

Nine different Tigers ran the ball. All nine averaged more than five yards a carry. Six topped 50 yards. Ashton Henkel had 82 yards and two TDs on only three carries. Smith added 71 yards and three TDs on 10 rushes. Freshman fullback Caden Considine added 73 yards on 14 runs, Jacob Ross 69 yards on six carries and Brayden Knoll 52 yards on six carries.

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“We are all blocking great for each other,” Ross said. “We’re just playing great football for each other. And this brings us one step closer.”

Byron (10-1) is the defending 3A state champion. The Tigers finished second in the state in their two previous playoff runs. And they have now won 10 games in a row since an upset loss in overtime to Stillman Valley, which it shared the Big Northern title with.

This team, suddenly, looks every bit as good as those teams that reached three consecutive state title games. The Tigers were so unstoppable Friday they could have played by Canadian rules. They only got to third down three times all game, all three on their first two drives. And they never needed a fourth down, converting all three third-down tries and never needing more than two yards to do so.

“It all starts up front,” Smith said. “That was our best game on offense all year. And it all started up front. They (the linemen) played great.

“And if you go back and look, we had no penalties,” Smith said of a game that featured only one 5-yard penalty, on Seneca. “When that happens, the line is pushing people backward and we are getting 5 or 6 yards every play.

“That’s how Byron works.”

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