CEDAR RAPIDS — In the first half, Davenport Assumption seemed to have an answer for everything Cedar Rapids Xavier threw at it.
For every 86-yard punt return, the Knights had a 95-yard kickoff return. The 35-yard touchdown passes were offset by 40-yarders. The 62-yard punt returns were matched by 66-yard scampers.
In the second half, the Knights ran out of answers, and the No. 3-ranked Saints bulldozed past them for a 44-21 victory in the quarterfinals of the Iowa Class 3A playoffs at Saints Field.
Xavier defeated Assumption for the fourth consecutive year, beating them by 20-plus points in the playoffs for the second straight season. It will play Solon, a 54-14 winner over West Delaware, in the 3A semifinals in the UNI-Dome next Thursday.
"It would have been nice to get the W against them, but it is what it is," said Assumption quarterback Jayce Levy, who had that 95-yard kickoff return and 66-yard touchdown run before halftime. "They played their (butts) off and so did we ... the first half. The second half ... not so good."
The Knights (8-3) managed just 34 yards of offense in the last two quarters after rolling up 209 in the first half.
"We just couldn’t get anything going in the second half," Assumption coach Wade King said. "The first half we had some big plays, the kickoff return. We really didn’t drive the ball a lot.
"They’re an awfully good football team. We spent an awful lot of time trying to make adjustments for them, too. They’re well-coached. They did a nice job."
Xavier was clinging to a 28-21 lead at the half, but its defense forced Assumption to punt on each of its first four possessions in the second half. Then it forced a pair of fourth-quarter turnovers and mixed in a clinching safety when Levy was tackled in the end zone with a minute, 13 seconds remaining.
"We wanted to contain that No. 3 (Levy)," Xavier coach Duane Schulte said of the second-half strategy. "He’s so athletic and explosive. You just try to find where he is and, of course, keep our eyes on 22 (Ryan Wohlers)."
Late in the third quarter, the Saints (11-0) simply began hammering the ball down Assumption’s throat with the ground game.
Tailback Braden Stovie, who had punt return touchdowns of 86 and 62 yards in the first half, carried on six straight plays and gained 66 yards, and quarterback Quinn Schulte finished off a 70-yard march with a 4-yard TD run that made it 35-21.
"We haven’t had a team do that against us in quite a while," King said. "When you get to this part of the playoffs, you’re going to run into those kind of teams."
Stovie later added a 19-yard scoring run that turned the game into a rout.
"We tried to establish the run when we got up a touchdown or two, and our guys executed it," Coach Schulte said. "I don’t know if we wore them down or not, but I’ll give our offensive line credit. They did a great job."
Quinn Schulte finished with 124 yards rushing on 19 carries, and Stovie added 120 on 21 tries.
Wohlers, a 1,000-yard rusher coming in, managed just 29 yards on the ground for Assumption, although he did catch a 40-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Nick Gottilla in the final minute of the first half.
Levy had 105 yards rushing, but 85 of those came before halftime. He had only 8 yards passing in the second half.
"We had a halftime talk and said we needed to step it up and play harder, and I guess it didn’t work out," the senior quarterback said. "We came out flat."