During the second quarter of Byron’s 46-42, 3A State Championship loss to Williamsville, all-state Tiger lineman Tyler Elsbury was down on the field with an injury.
Elsbury laid on the field at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb for a few minutes. He sat out a few plays.
And then he returned, played both ways and blocked for 449 total rushing yards.
“It's a grind,” Elsbury said. “I'm the youngest of five boys in a family, so I'm used to it. I just took a shot to my lower leg and it definitely hurt. In my head I was just thinking I'd play for these guys, so I just had to suck it up and come back out on the field for them."
Williamsville (14-0) got Byron’s (13-2) best shot on Friday afternoon. Two of Byron’s other top seniors, running backs Isaac Stickler and Drake Snodgrass, put up video game numbers in the contest. Stickler racked up 264 yards rushing and four touchdowns, while Snodgrass added 163 yards and two touchdowns.
The two runners punched back at Williamsville after each time it scored. The Bullets’ coaches could be heard from the press box yelling out which plays were coming from the Tigers’ offense, but they still couldn’t be stopped.
"It was just execution,” Elsbury said. “It doesn't really matter what play is called. It was just outstanding how our offense was working today.”
Elsbury was seen taking on triple teams early in the game. Late in the game, he acted as a road grader running through the secondary to block for Stickler, who was tucked in behind him.
"Following Tyler is like following a truck,” Stickler said. “You just go behind him and let him do his thing."
Stickler finished the season with 1,501 yards and 19 touchdowns, while Snodgrass finished with 1,200 yards and 10 scores. Elsbury will move on to Iowa to play for the Hawkeyes next fall.
Byron head coach Jeff Boyer appeared emotional as he was asked about his senior class as a whole following the game.
"I love each and every one of these kids,” Boyer said. “I'm so proud of them. We spent so much time together in the weight room and in the offseason and throughout the season. Words can't even describe how much this group of kids means to me. The entire senior class."
Byron failed for the second time in as many years downstate to try and win its first title since 1999.
“It's hard to swallow,” Elsbury said. “But we all have to deal with it together and when we do that, I think it'll be alright. We'll look back at it. Not a lot of teams can say they made it to the state championship back to back."