DENVER – It was a first half to remember for Ethan Schoville.
The speedy sophomore celebrated his 16th birthday in style, returning the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
He finished the first half by breaking free on a dazzling 42-yard TD run.
His teammates struck for four touchdowns in between as Denver powered to a 40-point half en route to a dominant Class 1A playoff win.
The Cyclones relied on an abundance of explosive plays in downing Sumner-Fredericksburg 53-7 on Friday night at home.
“Ethan’s return on the opening kickoff really set the tone for us,” Denver coach Rhett Barrett said. “It was important for us to get off to a fast start and that’s exactly what we did. We’ve been so close to scoring a touchdown with our kickoff return team and it was exciting to finally get one. We worked on it all week and it paid off for us.”
The Cyclones (5-3) advance to play at Cascade, a 55-0 winner over Wilton, in the second round next Friday.
Sumner-Fredericksburg, which won its final two regular-season games, finished 3-5.
Denver had defeated the Cougars 27-0 on the road Sept. 11, and the Cyclones left no doubt in the rematch. Denver struck for 26 first-quarter points, scoring the first four times it had the ball.
Reese Johnson is part of a talented class that has its sights set on leading Denver to its first state volleyball tournament.
Senior quarterback Isaac Besh connected on three long scoring passes for the Cyclones in the opening half. He hit Caylor Hoffer on touchdowns of 56 and 37 yards before hooking up with Braydon Powers on a 72-yard score.
“We knew Caylor was going to be open when they tried to cover him one-on-one,” Barrett said. “We were able to connect on some big plays in the passing game. Caylor is a big threat for us from the outside.”
Besh passed for 176 first-half yards before finishing with an impressive 222 total.
“Caylor’s a great receiver and he made some huge plays,” Besh said. “They had single coverage on him and we like our chances when teams do that. We were able to connect on some big plays early and that obviously was huge for us.”
Hoffer added a 1-yard TD run in the opening-half blitz.
Carter Gallagher scored with 1:23 left in the game to lift Columbus to victory.
The Cyclones came out strong following a 21-14 setback to Waterloo Columbus in the district title game.
Schoville capped his highlight-reel evening on Friday by catching a screen pass and racing 48 yards for the end zone in the third quarter. Teammate Tye Bradley added a 3-yard TD run early in the final quarter.
The Cyclones also excelled defensively on Friday, pitching a shutout until late in the final quarter.
“Our defense really flies to the ball,” Barrett said. “We’re not the fastest, but we get where we need to be. They did a really good job.”
For Schoville, he couldn’t have scripted a much better way to celebrate his birthday.
“This was pretty sweet,” he said. “It was a great team win. We still have a few things to work on to get ready for Cascade. We can’t win strictly off talent. We have to execute to beat good teams.”
Besh was emotional as he walked off his home field for the final time. The good news is his team isn’t done yet.
“That was a great way for the seniors to go out at home,” Besh said. “Now we have to prepare for a tough test on the road against Cascade. We can play with anybody. We just have to play our style of football and step it up even more.”
Denver 53, Sumner-Fred. 7
Sumner-Fred. 0 0 0 7 – 7
Denver 26 14 6 7 – 53
Denver – Ethan Schoville 85 kickoff return (run failed)
Denver – Caylor Hoffer 1 run (Trevan Reiter kick)
Denver – Hoffer 56 pass from Besh (Reiter kick)
Denver – Hoffer 37 pass from Besh (run failed)
Denver – Braydon Powers 72 pass from Besh (Reiter kick)
Denver – Schoville 42 run (Reiter kick)
Denver – Schoville 48 pass from Besh (pass failed)
Denver – Tye Bradley 3 run (Reiter kick)
SF – Kody Van Engelenburg 7 pass from Peyton Schmitz (Engelenburg kick)
First downs 8 9
Rushes-yards 49-158 22-152
Passing yards 25 222
Comp-att-int 4-9-2 7-13-1
Punts-avg. 4-21.0 3-29.0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 5-45 6-45
SF – Zupke 11-70, Schmitz 17-45, Kime 12-40.
DENVER – Schoville 8-74, Bradley 2-35, Powers 1-33.
SF – Schmitz 4-9-2, 25 yards.
DENVER – Besh 7-13-1, 222 yards.