It was another thriller in the 3A state title game for Byron. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it was another heartbreaking loss, this time at Northern Illinois' Huskie Stadium on Friday.
Trailing 42-32 with 3:30 left in the game, Bullets quarterback Conor McCormick and Brendan Bishop connected for two touchdowns passes for a 46-42 win.
"It was an incredible game," Williamsville coach Aaron Kunz said. "It was incredible heart by our kids when (Byron) returned that onside kick. Both teams fought so hard. A tip of the hat to Byron. It was unbelievable."
Down 42-39, Williamsville tried an onside kick, but Parker Eccles of Byron snagged it on the run and went to the 19-yard line.
Looking to put the game away, the normally potent Tiger offense came up short on fourth down and turned the ball over at the 11-yard line with 2:35 left.
"That was a huge momentum changer, but football is a weird game," said Byron QB Ben Carlson, who was masterful in directing the offense and also led the team with nine tackles.
That was where McCormick's (335 yards) and Grant Ripperda's (181 yards) running sliced through the Tiger defense leading up to a red zone possession with 30 seconds left in the game.
McCormick was flushed out of the pocket and found Bishop in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass that resembled a playground play.
"I saw him rolling out and I tried to find space," said Bishop, who had a 3A record of 230 yards receiving, to go along with nine catches and three TDs.
There was no stopping either Byron and Williamsville until Ripperda fumbled in the red zone early in the third quarter.
Sophomore Chandler Binkley, who saw plenty of action mid season filling in for a hobbled Tiger offensive backfield, recovered the loose ball and Williamsville was finally stopped after five straight scoring drives.
Byron, which led 35-32 at the time after a Isaac Stickler TD, couldn't capitalize, as its offense was stopped on fourth-and-one on its next drive.
"We knew they wouldn't pass and we stacked our defense. That was a huge stop for us," Kunz said.
The Tigers did gain a 42-32 advantage on a 51-yard scoring drive. The key play was a 20-yard run by Stickler, who followed pulling Tyler Elsbury taking out three defenders on the play.
"It's like following a truck," Stickler said.
On the next play, 155-pound Josiah Fetherston showed little guys could block too by sealing off the last would-be tackler on a Drake Snodgrass 25-yard touchdown and 42-32 lead.
"It was a great high school football game. I'm proud of these guys," Byron coach Jeff Boyer said.
The first half was more like a ping pong game than football, as each team went back-and-forth in scoring.
"Both of our offenses were on fire in the first half," Kunz said. "We knew we could score. But what mattered was whether we could get a stop."
Stickler had 191 yards rushing in the first half, along with scores of 10, 40 and 61. Snodgrass added the other touchdown on a 3-yard run, as the Tigers did not pass until midway in the third quarter.
Williamsville was effective mixing pass (171yards) and run (162) in putting up five touchdowns in the first 24 minutes. That was more than anyone had put up against Byron in an entire game.
"They had a great spread attack throwing and running," Boyer said.
The Tigers, which suffered similar disappointment in a 24-20 title game loss to Monticello last year at Universty of Illinois' Memorial Stadium, ended up with 517 yards of total offense and did everything they needed to do to win.
The only problem was that 14-0 Williamsville did a little more in claiming the school's first state title in any boys sport.
"They're both tough losses to swallow," Boyer said.