NORMAL — When Michael Reibling scored his second goal of the match with just over two minutes left in the second overtime Tuesday, Normal Community moved to the brink of a berth in the Class 3A state soccer tournament.
But the final 129 seconds on the clock turned into an eternity that never arrived for the Ironmen.
Bradley-Bourbonnais got an equalizer from Nicholas Markanich exactly one minute later, then outscored the hosts 3-1 in four rounds of penalty kicks to claim a 3-2 victory in the NCHS Super-Sectional.
"It hurts. I tell you what, it's painful. We've got 10 seniors and we feel like we were right there," said NCHS coach Matt Chapman, whose team bowed out at 18-4-1. "Being in that huddle is pretty tough with those guys who put their whole heart into everything. It's a tough one."
Peter Sorich converted the decisive PK for the Boilermakers (19-5-3), who will look to improve on last year's third-place finish when they open the state tourney in Friday's 5 p.m. semifinal against Libertyville (19-0-2) at Hoffman Estates High School.
The loss came despite a tremendous effort in net by Ironmen senior Austin Woodside, who made 12 saves including a huge stop against Markanich on a PK in the first half.
"He was fantastic. I can't say enough great things about Austin Woodside," said Chapman. "He's carried us back there all season long and made some great plays in great moments. We won 18 games and there's five or six of those that are because of Austin."
After a scoreless but eventful first half, Markanich got the Boilermakers on the board off an assist from Efrain Davila eight minutes into the second half. Reibling netted the first NCHS tally off a Josef Halcomb assist eight minutes later.
Bradley wound up playing the final 40 minutes shorthanded after one red card, and a second one with 2:57 left in regulation put the Boilermakers at a two-man disadvantage.
"Playing two men down was taking a lot out of our rhythm," said Boilers coach Rohan Robinson. "Any given scenario can come about any given day. Today it came about and we were ready for it."
But NCHS could not capitalize against a packed-in defense.
"They made some adjustments and clogged it up pretty well," said Chapman. "We struggled to find the final pass to make it happen."
The Ironmen finally did make it happen when Reibling tucked a shot past Andrew Seyden off a Jared Nutt assist with 2:09 left in the second overtime. With elimination looming, Bradley shifted from its packed-in defense to attack mode.
Davila got a ball ahead to Anthony Markanich, who then found Nicholas Markanich for the tying goal with 1:09 on the clock.
"We told them 'we're going to push' because we'd rather lose 3-1 than just sit back and defend," said Robinson. "We got the ball to Anthony and Anthony got it to Nick, and he put it in."
NCHS put 11 shots on goal, but just missed on several quality chances with some bad breaks. After a corner kick in the first half, Halcomb put a shot past Seyden only to have Bradley defender Jackson Jasmin keep the ball from crossing the line.
"That's part of the game sometimes. We had chances. They made some great defensive plays to knock it off the line sometimes," said Chapman.
"I'm proud of these guys for trying to make it happen. It just didn't go our way."