COLUMBUS — Michael Koch is human after all.

A couple of interceptions late in the first half Friday evening tried to spoil an otherwise superb effort for Columbus High's senior quarterback.

“It all started up front,” CHS head coach Craig Williams said. “We had a breakdown up front. We've got to clean things up to give Michael just a little bit more time, because we had receivers open.”

That didn't slow the Discoverers down much.

Koch ran for nearly 200 yards and two TDs before halftime as Columbus High rolled to a 44-0 win over Bennington at Pawnee Park’s Memorial Stadium.

“We didn’t have a game plan coming in to get Michael to carry the football,” Williams said. “From the start of the game, they were taking away the tailback. If the defense keeps giving us Michael Koch on the edge, we’ll keep taking it.”

Koch took the second half off after Joey Braasch returned the opening kick of the third quarter for a TD.

“He’s an exciting player,” Williams said of the sophomore wide receiver. “He knows he belongs out here and deserves to be out here with these guys.”

That was one of two big returns for Braasch. His other set up a Koch touchdown run.

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Columbus High sophomore Joey Braasch (23) carries the ball in the first half of Friday's game against Bennington at Pawnee Park's Memorial Stadium.

The Discoverer defense was challenged early, but answered the bell for the second straight week to pitch a shutout.

“It was a total team effort,” Williams said. “All the way from our front-line starters down to the young kids who got to play there at the end to preserve it.”

Bennington received the opening kickoff and marched 62 yards deep into Columbus territory before the Discoverers stiffened, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down.

“That was a big play,” Williams said. “High school football is all about momentum, especially early. The kids stepped up, made a play and we got things turned in the right direction.”

Juan Leon's 6-yard plunge late in the first quarter put Columbus on the scoreboard. Caleb Esch ran in a botched PAT attempt to make it 8-0.

That was the first of three straight TD drives for the Discoverers.

It was all Koch after that as he ran for a 74-yard TD on the next possession.

After forcing a safety on Bennington's ensuing possession, Braasch returned the kickoff to the Badgers' 26-yard line. Koch scored on the next play.

All of the sudden Columbus was up 24-0.

The only thing that stopped the Discoverers in the first half were the interceptions. Both happened near Bennington's goal line.

Telegram Super Senior Cameron Barnes picked up his QB after the second interception, recovering a fumble in the end zone with 36 seconds left in the second quarter to put Columbus up 31-0 at halftime.

Braasch returned the second-half kickoff to enforce the running clock, putting the Discoverers up 38-0.

“It takes a lot of pressure off the offense,” Williams said of the non-offensive touchdowns. “It’s huge when the defense and special teams come up big like that.”

Christian Dyhrkopp’s score from 34 yards out with 3:33 left in the game put an exclamation point on the performance.

The CHS defense has now given up just seven points total through two games, and it all comes down to effort.

“They’re relentless,” Williams said. “We’re not real big up front, but we do have athletes that can run. They just got to keep getting to the football and making plays.”

Even with such a strong start to the season, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Columbus was called for several penalties, botched a couple of field goal attempts and had two turnovers.

“We certainly have to cut those things down,” Williams said.

But it's hard to be too upset when the scoreboard reads 44-0.

The Discoverers (2-0) host Grand Island Northwest on Friday back at Pawnee Park’s Memorial Stadium.

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Columbus High running back Caleb Esch (14) finds an opening in the line during a first-half carry Friday against Bennington at Pawnee Park's Memorial Stadium.

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