Rebels returning to state
REINBECK — The feeling of missing out on the state soccer tournament on Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s home field last year was a gut punch to the Rebels.
A pain so awful that the Rebels have put in the work to make sure they’ve yet to experience it once this year — on their field or anyone else’s.
GC/G-R was all smiles on Wednesday night, vanquishing Denver 4-1 in a Class 1A Substate 2 final to next week’s state tournament in Des Moines.
The Rebels head to the Cownie Soccer Complex with an 18-0 record and a No. 1 ranking from the Iowa High School Boys Soccer Coaches Association.
“We had that feeling last year and we talked about it briefly today — you don’t want that feeling,” GC/G-R head coach Jon Dinsdale said. “We don’t talk about the ‘L’ word. We just come and play our game. Denver gave everything they had and there were some times they outplayed us, outmuscled us tonight. But I’m just so excited for these guys.”
Aiden Hunemuller scored quickly for GC/G-R on an assist from a booming kick off the boot of goalkeeper Max Anderson for a 1-0 home team lead five minutes in.
The Cyclones were quick to answer with a goal from Jarrett Clayton to even it up five minutes later.
“We hung our heads there for a second, but we like to stay positive out there,” Hunemuller said. “We come back stronger every time.”
Austin Betts was able to break the tie with three minutes to halftime on a Tyler Nolder assist and get GC/G-R back ahead, 2-1, at the halftime break.
“We just had to keep it going,” Nolder said, “and kind of wake up a little bit.”
With Denver motivated to keep playing with nothing to lose against the highly-touted Rebels, GC/G-R needed something more in the second half.
Isaac Clark used his head on a precise finish off a well-placed Stuart Whitehill cross to give GC/G-R a 3-1 lead with 23 minutes to play.
“That’s so much weight off the shoulders,” Hunemuller said. “You know you can drop back, play a more defensive game. You don’t need that extra goal, but it’s great on the counterattack.”
Hunemuller, one of three captains on the team along with Nolder and Austin Betts, said the fourth goal, which Hunemuller scored on another assist from Nolder, was the “extra cherry on top.”
“No one expected us to get where we were last year,” Hunemuller said. “Substate final was a tough loss, though, and coming in here we just knew we had to win this, for the seniors, for everybody watching. It’s huge.”
Nolder is now up to 41 assists on the season heading into state.
“It’s a huge moment to have all that hard work you’ve put in over the last couple of seasons pay off,” Nolder said. “I’ve played soccer pretty much my whole life and to win and have the whole community out here is a big, big deal for the whole community.”