Thede’s hat trick helps Rebels rout ACA, 7-0
No. 12 Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck advances to Saturday’s 1A substate finals
REINBECK — Gladbrook-Reinbeck freshman Eli Thede dealt with a fair amount of good-natured ribbing from his buddies during school earlier Wednesday. Their call for a career-high, three-goal performance from the rookie forward weren’t as far off base as Thede initially thought.
Thede tallied a hat trick capped by consecutive goals in a span of 26 seconds and the Class 1A No. 12 Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys’ soccer squad dispatched Ankeny Christian Academy by a 7-0 count in the Substate 2 semifinals.
The Rebels (9-6), who ended an unnerving four-match losing skid with Wednesday’s postseason opener, will host Garner-Hayfield/Ventura (9-6) at noon Saturday back in Reinbeck in search of a third-straight state tournament berth.
Thede’s hat trick was merely icing on an already baked cake, but it made for an enjoyable victory for the G-R freshman.
“It feels pretty good,” he grinned. “I had some kids messing with me during school to get [a hat trick] today, so that’ll be interesting tomorrow. I didn’t come into this thinking I was going to get three.”
Ankeny Christian Academy (7-10) entered having allowed less than 2.3 goals per game, though a season-high of six, prior to Wednesday’s walloping. GC/G-R senior captain Erik Knaack scored the first goal just 49 seconds into the contest and made it 2-0 with his second hard-earned tally at the 20:57 mark, putting the Rebels out front to stay.
Thede’s first goal since scoring twice in a 3-2 loss against Spencer at the Waverly-Shell Rock Tournament on May 6 seemed to solidify the outcome. Fellow freshman Cale Hendricks fired a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that Eagles goalkeeper Cameron Tarbell initially saved, but Thede was there to put back the rebound.
“We didn’t know much [about ACA],” said GC/G-R head coach Jon Dinsdale. “We were open book really. We were just going to play our game, play a little physical, dominate the game and we did that. We did that right out of the chute. That helps out a lot.”
Knaack’s goal in the opening minute showed the Rebels they could go over the top of Ankeny Christian’s last line of defense, and GC/G-R also found ways to maneuver around the Eagles when they were forced to be more patient. The Rebels’ speed to through-balls was evident when Knaack fought off ACA defenders Clay Ramseyer and Joe Graham to a long, bouncing lead pass, and the ability to score from the corners became clearer as the match progressed.
Thede’s first goal was the initial example, but the Rebels got three more similar goals in the second half. Mason Skovgard expanded on GC/G-R’s 3-0 halftime lead with his goal, stepping in to finish off a golden scoring opportunity that briefly eluded Caden Kickbush at the 44:48 mark.
Thede scored twice more in a span of just 26 seconds to make it a 6-0 match, converting passes from his older brother, junior captain Walker Thede, and Colton Clark to complete his career-high scoring performance.
“It feels good moving on to the next round, [but] we’ll just take it one game at a time,” said Eli. “Our main goal was to chip it over them or kick it to the corners and crash the middle.”
Such was the case for the game’s final score, as Jace Petersen sent one last corner kick into the box with time winding down. GC/G-R sophomore Travis Kuester was there to finish off the Eagles with his first career goal that found the back of the net as the game clock hit double-zero.
“The middle got a little swamped at times, but that’s what you have to deal with at times when you figure out we’re pretty fast up front,” said Dinsdale. “We came out right away and ran right by them. … We just took our opportunities and scored on them.”
Now the Rebels can score their third-straight trip to the state tournament with another win on Saturday, but Dinsdale knows better than to call it a done deal.
“We’ll go over some stuff in practice, but we’re not going to play the other team’s game,” he said. “We’re going to play our game, we’re going to play physical, we’re going to play smart, control the ball, communicate — kind of like tonight — and hopefully end up with a win.
“Our goal obviously is to make it down to Des Moines, win that first game and stay until Saturday. We have such a great time, the boys look forward to it, but we can’t look that far ahead. You’ve got to play one game by one game.”
The Rebels learned that during a difficult stretch that included six losses in the final seven regular-season contests. GC/G-R won its first seven matches this season before falling on hard times. On Saturday, they’ll face a GHV program that has won four in a row.
Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck 7, Ankeny Christian Academy 0
GC/G-R — Erik Knaack, :49.
GC/G-R — Knaack, 20:57.
GC/G-R — Eli Thede (Cale Hendricks), 21:58.
GC/G-R — Mason Skovgard (Caden Kickbush), 44:48.
GC/G-R — E. Thede (Walker Thede), 53:17.
GC/G-R — E. Thede (Colton Clark), 53:43.
GC/G-R — Travis Kuester (Jace Petersen), 80:00.