REINBECK - Close, but not quite enough has become an increasingly familiar refrain for the Rebels.
Though a recent run of successful seasons stopped just short of state didn't make Saturday's setback any easier to stomach.
Finishing a game shy of the state tournament for the second year in a row, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys soccer team couldn't keep pace with a fleet-footed Clear Lake attack.
Jack Finn tallied two goals and an assist and Antonio DiMarco also scored twice as No. 5 Clear Lake sped past the third-ranked Rebels, 4-1, in a Class 1A Substate 5 final.
"We've come one game away several times in the last (couple) years," G-R coach Kirk Dinsdale said. "It's something I told the guys we're kind of getting used to at G-R. We were one game from the Dome in football, one game from Wells Fargo in basketball, and we're one game away from Des Moines in soccer. We're one game behind in everything and it's getting to be old."
Dinsdale said several of his team's defensive breakdowns occurred with some less experienced players on his back line as the G-R coach was forced to move some players around with senior Chase Clark further limited from his left knee injury.
"I tried to get (Chase) in there as much as I could, but he just couldn't do anything," Dinsdale said. "He couldn't go up for headers ... we just had to take him out and then you have to bring someone in from the defensive end to fill his spot."
Finn found a major hole in the center of the Rebel defense and dribbled to the left before spraying a shot inside the far post to put the Lions (15-3) ahead in the 14th minute. Seventeen minutes later, the shifty junior fed a quick pass for Antonio DiMarco's first goal as Clear Lake took a 2-0 cushion into halftime.
The Rebels (14-2) made one of their best offensive charges 7 1/2 minutes into the second half with back-to-back corner kick attempts but came up empty as G-R was whistled for a push on the second. G-R had nine fouls in the match and three yellow cards, while the Lions had just four fouls.
Clear Lake continued to control possession in the second half and widened their lead further with Finn firing a rebound shot off a MJ Mixdorf miss in the 57th. Consecutive handball calls set up the Rebels' lone score as Dustin Dinsdale buried a penalty kick up the middle in the 61st. The Lions' speed took over again just three minutes later as DiMarco streaked down the left side before unleashing a shot past Josh Cooley to set the final margin.
"They were a lot faster than us," Dustin Dinsdale said. "They were physical, possessed the ball well, and we just couldn't handle their speed."
Clear Lake fired six more shots (22-16) and five more on goal (11-6) as Cooley made five saves, while also getting a couple stops from his defense. Clear Lake goalkeeper Jacob Hogan was rarely challenged on the afternoon and his only slip-up came when he guessed wrong on Dinsdale's PK.
Much of that credit went to his back line which kept the Rebel forwards at bay by limiting G-R's long ball attack and winning a majority of the 50/50 balls.
"They're a really athletic team, so my biggest concern was keeping them off their long balls and keeping possession," Lions coach Matt Anderson said of the Rebels. "When they got two headers (for goals) on Thursday, that was no fluke. I knew that was going to be a problem for us and I knew they execute their corners really well so I didn't want to give them a lot of corners."
The Rebels attempted four corner kicks in the match, but couldn't create the same quality opportunities that they found against Gilbert. Youth, injuries and position changes aside, Coach Dinsdale never saw his squad find its top gear against Clear Lake.
"It was a good season," Coach Dinsdale said. "They're really disappointed right now and they're disappointed because we didn't play up to our capabilities today.
"This year's seniors, they're going to be hard to replace. They had a great year and overall career. We just couldn't get over the hump."
The Rebels lose seven seniors including Clark, Dustin Dinsdale, Shawn Dugan, Marco Barron, Wyatt Swanson, Pete Meyers and Joey Linder.
The Lions' seventh straight win earned the program's third state tournament appearance in history and the first since placing third in 2010.
Clear Lake claimed the third seed and will face 11th-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley (11-5) in the first round of the state tourney Thursday at 12:15 p.m. at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
Notebook G-R had won nine straight games and hadn't given up more than one goal in a match coming into Saturday. ... Clear Lake's only losses included two against Class 2A No. 1 Waverly-Shell Rock and one against No. 13 Webster City - the team responsible for G-R's only regular season defeat. ... The Rebels lost to Waterloo Columbus 2-1 in a penalty kick shootout in last year's substate final.