It’s late October, so the Gibault Catholic High School soccer team must be headed to the state tournament.
The Hawks booked their 10th state trip since 2000 with a resounding 5-0 victory over Beardstown in Tuesday’s Class 1A Granite City Supersectional. Both sides brought loud and wild fan sections, creating for an electrifying atmosphere.
The first half was a hotly contested affair, as the teams traded scoring chances and physical play escalated.
Gibault kept its cool and took the lead in the 12th minute, when Aaron Grohmann scored on a corner kick from teammate Kyle Rocca.
The Hawks had a few chances to extend the lead before halftime, but could not convert, taking their 1-0 lead into the break.
The Hawks came out firing in the second half. Senior Ben Mueth provided the spark his team needed, netting two goals less than three minutes.
Mueth’s first goal came off a free kick, as the senior’s smashing liner settled into the left corner, doubling Gibault’s lead.
Minutes later, Mueth struck again. The speedy senior forward streaked down the sideline and cut in toward the goal box before angling a nifty shot past Beardstown’s keeper.
The quick two goals proved to be a turning point. Within moments, the tempo of the game had changed from a tight contest to a blowout.
“That’s what we needed,” Gibault head coach Matt Reeb said after the game. “Ben’s a good player. He’s one of the guys we rely on, and he came through again for us.”
With the game now comfortably in hand, Gibault continued to assert its dominance, locking down defensively and creating several more quality scoring chances. Dalton Scace knocked in the emphatic clinching goal with 12 minutes to play, taking a long pass down the sideline before criss-crossing a pair of defenders and booting a shot into the right corner.
Ryan Swindle added the icing on the cake in the final minutes, sending Hawks fans into hysterics.
Minutes later, the final horn finally sounded, and the Gibault Superfans poured out onto the field to celebrate the school’s latest trip to the Promised Land.
Reeb was thrilled with his team’s performance, noting that this was the offensive breakout he had been anticipating all postseason.
“We’ve been doing a lot of good things (throughout the playoffs) and just building up and haven’t really scored as much as I thought we would,” Reeb said. “I just kept telling the guys that it was coming and I knew it was coming, and I told the guys at halftime, ‘it’s coming,’ and then it just opened up.”
For Reeb and the Hawks, the victory marked the realization of a season-long goal.
“I’m most proud for the chance for them to go to state,” Reeb remarked. “They worked really, really hard. They’ve glorified God with their talent, they serve Him in the best way possible, and I’m just proud of them and the chance they have.”
After checking another state trip off the to-do list, the Hawks will look to win the program’s fifth state title this weekend in East Peoria. Gibault will play Normal (University) at 7 p.m. in Friday’s second semifinal game.
“(Winning the state championship) is always the goal once we get there,” Reeb said. “We’ll rest up and then we’ve got two more games.”