REINBECK - The evidence was all around.
The black brace wrapped around his left knee. The limited cutting ability and hitch in his step. The shortened workload and extended breaks on the bench.
Chase Clark was clearly not at 100 percent Thursday and hasn't been for over three weeks, but that didn't stop the Rebel senior from impacting the match.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck senior Chase Clark, right, heads the ball over Gilbert’s Jordan Kuntz in the first half of Thursday’s Class 1A Substate 2 semifinal game in Reinbeck. Clark scored both of the game’s goals on headers and Wyatt Swanson had two assists as the Rebels won 2-0. No. 3 G-R will host No. 7 Clear Lake in the Substate 2 final Saturday at noon.
Photo by Tyler Strand
Scoring off a pair of headers on two brilliant crosses from Wyatt Swanson, Clark led the No. 3 Rebels to a 2-0 victory over Gilbert in a Class 1A Substate 2 semifinal Thursday.
The Rebels (14-1) claimed their ninth straight win and advance to host No. 5 Clear Lake (14-3) in the Substate 2 final Saturday at noon.
The Lions cruised past No. 14 Waterloo Columbus Sailors 7-0 in their semifinal match.
Clark sprained his knee in the first half of a match against Denver on May 6, and had missed five games since, including the last two weeks of the season, but G-R coach Kirk Dinsdale was confident the senior could step in and contribute.
"I don't even know if he'd be at 70 percent right now, but I'd take him at 70 percent anyday," Dinsdale said. "He just plays so hard and he's got a lot of ability, just a mental toughness."
Whatever percent Clark was at Thursday, it was more than enough to stretch the Tigers' defense as he was often in the right place at the right time.
Clark put the Rebels in front off a Swanson corner kick in the 17th minute, just moments after the pair nearly connected on a similar set piece. The tandem struck again in the 51st as Swanson floated in a high cross from the left side that Clark drilled past Gilbert's Mitchell Daharsh inside the near post.
"We have really good crossers and corner kickers so they make it really easy to finish," Clark said. "They put it in the perfect spot and I just go up and get it."
The Rebels created numerous scoring opportunities with 28 shots and 12 on goal, though Daharsh snuffed out 10 to keep the Tigers (8-9) within range. Sophomore Josh Cooley made four saves in net to post the shutout as G-R maintained possession through much of the second half.
Clark stayed off the pitch the last two weeks while preparing for the state track meet, though he switched gears seamlessly in his first match back.
"He's just a hard guy to keep out," Dinsdale said. "He wants to play every minute but I won't let him. We tried to limit his minutes to let him heal up. He just keeps reaggravating it, but that's Chase - you're not going to hold him down."
Dinsdale said Clark is fine running straight ahead but is limited in making quick cuts. The senior was still plenty effective in drawing the attention of the Gilbert defense when he freelanced through the middle.
Clark's injury was initially thought to be much worse when he was helped off the field during the Denver game, but he got some good news from the doctors.
"They said I just sprained it," Clark said. "It kind of popped a little but nothing just a little rest couldn't help. ... It's still kind of sore but I can fight through it, so it's alright."
The Rebels have a short turnaround with the Lions in town Saturday. A win would give G-R its first state tournament berth in five years and just the second in school history.
The Rebels are seeking their first trip to state since 2009, when they finished fourth. G-R defeated Waterloo Columbus 2-1 in Reinbeck on May 13.