BYRON, Ill. (WIFR) Every team dreams of finishing their season playing for and winning a state championship. However for Byron, that dream ended in a heartbreaking nightmare. The Tigers have moved on from last year nd are ready to chase that dream in 2019.
"It's good. But it just wasn't what we wanted."
What Byron wanted was its first state championship since 1999. The Tigers came up just short in the title game, losing to Monticello 24-20.
"We lost our last game," said head coach Jeff Boyer. "State runner-up, that's a great accomplishment. But still not good enough for our kids. Our kids want more and they want to be state champs. So, we continue to work for that every day."
Byron returns two of the top three leading rushers in the conference in Drake Snodgrass and Isaac Stickler. The two combined for more than 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns on the ground.
Tyler Elsbury will be the anchor on the offensive line for the Tigers.
"Our line is looking really well this year," said Elsbury. "Running backs are working extra hard this year, twice as hard as they did last year. I think we should have a powerful offense and I'm hoping for it."
The University of Iowa commit stays humble and hungry despite the big expectations.
"I'm glad I get to make the town proud. But at the end of the day, I'm glad I have it over with so I can just focus on this year and just being able to make it back (to state)."
"Of course he's a Division I athlete," said senior fullback Ian Palzkill. "He's not all stuck up. He's a team player first. He's a good friend. He's just an amazing guy in general."
Although the offense looks to be in good shape, the defense will be Byron's focal point heading into the season. The Tigers lose their top three tacklers from last year's state team.
"We're going to need guys stepping up everywhere," explained Elsbury. "We lost a lot of linebackers last year. So that's kind of our main emphasis this year is defense. Our offense should be really good. But, can't be hoping, you just got to to go work."
Palzkill is one of the seniors looking to take on a bigger role defensively.
"I got the opportunity to play up with the seniors for most of the year for defense," explained Palzkill. "It's helped me a lot this year. It's certainly propelled me to be a better player than I was last year."
While Byron will all but likely be the favorites again in the Big Northern Conference, Boyer is not looking past Week One.
"If we're not on our "A" game, we get caught on a Friday night and get beat. We know that and we're going to continue to work hard each and every day and be prepared to beat the best people in the conference."