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Back-to-back Rebels get past Gilbert 1-0 to return to state tourney

June 5, 2016

REINBECK - Kirk Dinsdale stood stiff as the ice water from a few green Gatorade water bottles careened down his head, front and back. Cheers and laughs rang out from the Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys' soccer team's bench.

The Rebels (16-2) were headed back to state.

GC/G-R defeated Gilbert 1-0 in the Class 1A Substate 2 final after sophomore Walker Thede nailed a penalty kick in the 46th minute to give his team the go-ahead goal.

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The Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys’ soccer team poses for photos in front of fans Saturday after clinching a state tournament berth by defeating Gilbert 1-0. Walker Thede scored the only goal on a penalty kick in the second half for the win.

"That PK? It was unbelievably important. You have no idea how much that meant," Dinsdale said. "I knew he'd make it. He's just that type of kid. He can handle pressure."

All game long, Gilbert (10-8) gave the Rebels opportunities time and time again on free kicks from anywhere between 15 and 30 yards away from the goal. Granted, GC/G-R had a handful of its own penalties, the Rebels never were able to get a clean, sound strike on the ball to find the back of the net.

That was until one Tiger defender made a crucial mistake.

With Eric Knaack right in front of the goal, one Gilbert defender shove tackled Knaack to the ground, resulting in a penalty kick, presented to Thede.

When Dinsdale told Thede in front of the team the media would like to speak to the sophomore, Knaack let out a jokingly holler, "That should've been me," getting a laughing rise out of his teammates.

"I just tried to do everything I do normally," Thede said. "Keep my eyes down, don't give [the goalie] anything you're going through or where you want to put it. I could see him up out of the corner of my eye nudge one way or another. And most of the time I've learned if they nudge one way or another, they're not going to go that way."

The sophomore forward helped the Rebels tally 19 shots, eight of which were on goal Saturday. But it was a penalty kick that sent the Rebels back to fight in a second-straight state tournament appearance.

But it wasn't the first time he had felt this kind of pressure.

Thede kicked the game-winning field goal in the semifinal game during the football season to send the Gladbrook-Reinbeck squad to the state championship, which it eventually won. He said that game, along with other critical moments in his sporting career helped tack on Saturday's state-clinching score.

"I've been through these situations before," Thede said. "It definitely helps going through this stuff. It's fun to look back and say the coaches trusted me enough to do that for the team."

The Rebels' defense was just as much of a factor in Saturday's substate final as Thede's goal.

GC/G-R defenders allowed just seven shots all day from the Tigers, only four of which were on goal. Two Tiger strikes in the second half almost found pay dirt, but senior goalie Josh Cooley had other thoughts.

"Our defense has done that all year long," Dinsdale said. "We've won a lot of games this year, 1-0, 2-0. Our defense is pretty solid. Granted, they'll give one up once and a while. You can't be perfect and they know that. But they try pretty hard to be that way."

Eight of the Rebels' 16 wins were one- or two-goal games. They had six of those eight games result in 1-0 or 2-0 shutouts and each loss was a 2-1 and 2-0 defeat.

Midfield play was also a key factor in Saturday's win, Dinsdale said. Pushing the ball up the pitch and earning consecutive shots took pressure off the defense as well.

Gilbert played even more aggressively Saturday than Clear Lake did in the Rebels' substate semifinal Tuesday. Forced to play a more reserved style of play than they'd like to, Dinsdale said his team responded well when the Tigers really pushed their buttons.

"I talked to them a little bit at halftime, not a lot about that, but I touched on it a little bit," Dinsdale said. "I thought our kids did a good job of keeping their composure and not getting wrapped up in those types of things."

No. 2-seed GC/G-R will take on No. 7 seed Underwood (16-2) on June 2 at the James W. Cownie Soccer Complex at 12:10 p.m. on field six in the first round of the Class 1A boys' state soccer tournament in Des Moines.



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