All-stater Considine comes to the fore against Montini
One of the highest-scoring teams in Illinois high school football history, Byron was up against it at Montini.
Caden Considine got the Tigers out of a pickle.
Intercepting a fourth-down pass at Byron's 4-yard line, the all-state two-way sophomore's 46-yard return set up the winning drive.
Running Considine on eight of nine snaps, his 1-yard touchdown behind all-state guard Jared Claunch with 3:29 to play, plus Brayden Knoll's 2-point conversion run gave Byron a 26-20 victory in Saturday's Class 3A semifinal at John L. Duffy Memorial Stadium in Lombard.
"We knew we had to get a big stop. They'd been running the ball all the way down the field. I knew they were going to try and surprise us. They did a little seam route, I was right there, picked it off," said Considine, who ran for 244 yards. Knoll added 141 yards, 3 touchdowns.
No. 1 seed Byron, the 1999 and 2021 Class 3A winner, reaches its fourth title game in five seasons. The Tigers (13-0) will play No. 4 Mt. Carmel in the Class 3A final, 4 p.m. Nov. 24 at Hancock Stadium in Normal.
Leading 20-18 with 7:29 left to play, No. 6 Montini (9-4) initially set up for a 26-yard field goal. A delay-of-game penalty backed up the Broncos. After a timeout, the offense came back on the field.
"To be honest, I don't know what the field goal does there," said Montini coach Mike Bukovsky, hoping to draw Byron offside or call timeout before the penalty scuttled the plan.
"If we can make a play on the edge and shake a guy free, then maybe that's what we want to do," said Bukovsky, who had sought Montini's 10th downstate appearance and possibly a seventh state title.
After Considine's 25th touchdown run of the season -- Byron's 99th rushing touchdown, an Illinois High School Association record -- Montini gained a first down but turned the ball over on downs with 1:09 left.
With Byron's 754 points ranking behind only Peoria's 805 in 2016, Montini held Byron below its 60.7-point average, best all-time in Illinois.
"I thought we did a really good job," Bukovsky said. "We needed to take control with another score and offensively we didn't execute well enough, and that really is the story of the game."
"We knew what we were coming in against," said Montini all-state running back Alex Marre, who carried 25 times for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Montini capitalized on Nick Irion's fumble recovery to take a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game, on Marre's 20-yard touchdown run and Cole Stumbaugh's kick.
Byron scored three straight touchdowns, all by Knoll on runs of 24, 23 and 15 yards, to lead 18-7 at 5:21 of the second quarter.
While Montini dealt with Considine between the tackles, Knoll plied the perimeter.
"Why wouldn't you key on Caden, he's been dominating all year," Knoll said.
Marre used his 38-inch vertical leap to go up and over on a 1-yard touchdown run to pull Montini within 18-13 at halftime.
The Broncos took a 20-18 lead two plays into the third quarter on a 46-yard run by another all-state pick, George Asay, who ran for 65 yards and caught 4 passes for 72 yards.
Byron, with 113 touchdowns, now targets Peoria's state record of 116 -- and a title.
"I laugh because when I played as a senior, Coach (Everett) Stine, he always said, 'Whatever I called worked.' That's kind of how I feel with this group," said Tigers coach Jeff Boyer.