NORMAL — Gibault proved once again Friday night that it's anything but a one-man show.
Junior Andrew Reinholz had a first-half goal and senior Wes Degener scored twice in the second half as the Hawks blanked Francis W. Parker, of Chicago, 3-0 in the semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament at the Corn Crib.
Senior Frank Mantia bagged an assist and senior Austin Gregson posted the shutout in goal and recorded two saves. The Hawks outshot the Colonels 18-7.
"That's been the whole year --absolutely the whole year," Gibault coach Matt Reeb said of his players' propensity to spread the wealth. "Wes comes up in big games, Mitch (Meyer) comes up in big games, Andrew comes up in big games, Frank's the assist man and Tyler Enright scores.
"I mean, we've got a lot of weapons. You can't single out one of us, for sure."
Gibault (18-4-4), seeking its fourth state title in nine seasons, will play the Herscher Tigers (23-4-1) in the championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday. Herscher defeated Genoa-Kingston 4-1 in the other semifinal.
"It was a total team effort," said Reinholz, whose first-half goal snapped a scoreless tie and put Gibault ahead for good. "Everyone on our team played just a great game. I could not ask for a better team effort overall. It was perfect."
F.W. Parker senior forward Noah Wolff was of primary concern for the Hawks entering the game, but Wolff, who had 22 goals and 11 assists, was limited to just one shot.
"The way we've been forming our team all year is from the back to the front," Mantia said. "We like to stack the back of the field, and tonight, really, the whole game went through the fact that we shut their star players down.
"Between Nick Row and Andrew Reinholz in the back, they just shut the guys down, and we went from there."
Reeb sensed that the Colonels might have been surprised by the Hawks' ability to match their ball skills.
"They play a very high level of possession-style soccer," Reeb said. "When we came out possessing even more than them, that kind of threw them off their game because that's what they do. When a team can't do that because we're outpossessing them, it makes it hard on them because it's a style they're used to.
"That was the big key. We set the tempo, we set the pace. We really dominated possession and dominated play because of that."
F.W. Parker (14-2-6) was able to match Gibault's speed but not its skill in the opening half, which ended with the Hawks on top 1-0.
Row, a senior, had the first bullet of the game, a shot that sailed high in the ninth minute from 27 yards out.
The Colonels brought danger in the 20th minute, penetrating the Hawks' back line but coming away empty when senior Jason Levy's shot from 13 yards out was corralled by Gregson.
Five minutes later, Gibault made the Colonels pay for a silly foul near their own endline. It led to a throw-in by Mantia, the Hawks' best playmaker, and Reinholz completed the play with a header in the left side of the box that made it 1-0 at 25:21.
Mantia's assist was his team-high 21st of the season, while Reinholz's goal was No. 13.
"Andrew had 12 goals early in the year, I think in the first seven games or something like that," Reeb said. "Then I moved him to center back and he doesn't get another goal (in the regular season). Then he gets one in the state semis. He's a born finisher. That's what he did when he was up top. (But) he's so smart and so steady in the back. He's a lock-down defender. We needed that presence."
The Colonels enjoyed moments of gritty possession in the final 10 minutes of the half, and even mustered two corner kicks. Neither, however, materialized into a goal.
Gibault then tucked away the game on a pair of unassisted goals from Degener --his eighth and ninth of the season.
Degener ripped a shot from outside the box that made it 2-0 at 45:26. Junior Zach Rueter hit the crossbar with a header in the 64th minute off a corner kick from Mantia, but Degener sealed the deal with a goal from high in the box at 76:18.
"It got a little chippy, but we played our game, kept within ourselves and put a few away. We're going to the show," Degener said. "This is a dream come true."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.