OREGON – Byron reached the red zone three times in the first half against Oregon on Friday at Landers-Loomis Field for a sum total of zero points.
Those lost opportunities proved to be pivotal in a 17-14 Big Northern West win for the Hawks.
Particularly galling for the Tigers (1-5, 1-1) was failing to convert on a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line with 1 minute left in the first half.
Needing 2 yards for a score, Austin Carlson was thrown for a loss on fourth down by Oregon’s Frank Lung.
“That was the difference in the game – not being able to score with three chances at the goal line,” said Byron coach Jeff Boyer.
“It was all heart,” Oregon lineman Ryan Miller said. “There are no ‘me’ players on this team. We all have our roles and have come to rely on the defense.”
Byron started the game with an impressive 17-play drive, but it stalled after a Pierce Dhaese tackle for a loss and an Adam Bettner pass break-up.
“We made the stops when we had to,” said Bettner, who later had an interception to stop another Tiger drive.
Early in the second quarter, Byron was on the verge of scoring. But on fourth down, quarterback Base Byers slipped on the damp turf and fell a yard short of a first down. Taking over at its own 6-yard line, a sluggish Hawk offense turned the game around on one play.
Running back Nick Newman, a state track medalist, used a crunching block by Travis Burke and inside contain by tight end Josh Cook to outrace the Tiger defense 94 yards, giving Oregon (3-3, 1-2) a 7-0 lead.
“That play [pitch sweep] got us in the game,” Oregon coach John Bothe said. “We couldn’t move a foot until then.”
“Other than that one run, we kept them in check in the first half,” said Boyer, whose team only dressed 18 varsity players.
Another pitch sweep to the left to Newman made it 14-0 in the third quarter. The 6-yard score capped off a 65-yard rushing drive.
The Tigers came right back, also scoring on a 65-yard drive to cut the deficit to 14-7 early in the fourth quarter.
In what was becoming a duel of matching 60-yard drives, the Hawks went 68 yards and faced a fourth down at the 5-yard line. Bothe opted for a 22-yard field goal attempt, and kicker Sawyer Reynolds calmly split the goalposts for a 17-7 lead.
“It was a chance to beat Byron. You’ve got to make it,” Reynolds said.
Not to be outdone, Byers efficiently led his team on a 66-yard scoring drive, connecting on 5-for-5 passing, including a 7-yard scoring toss to sophomore Zack Cogswell with 2½ minutes left in the game.
Hawk quarterback Tyler Blume helped seal the victory by recovering the ensuing onside kick.
“I liked our poise tonight,” Bothe said. “There is a bit of relief after this game. We won’t face as much pressure [to make the playoffs].”