JACKSONVILLE — Prior to the Class 3A Rock Island Sectional soccer final at Illinois College on Friday, Normal Community High School all-stater Josef Halcomb told his teammates that if they got behind, they’d be fine.
He was right and they were more than fine while notching a 4-2 victory over Collinsville to advance to the Elite Eight for the second time in school history.
“He kind of put that in everybody’s head,” said NCHS coach Matt Chapman of Halcomb. “So when that happened, we were like, ‘Okay, there is plenty of time left.’ That was a key moment I think.”
The Ironmen, led by Michael Reibling’s two goals, improved to 18-5-3 while Collinsville ended at 17-8. The Ironmen will face Bradley-Bourbonnais (18-3-1) in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. NCHS Super-Sectional.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season in terms of figuring things out,” Chapman said. “This postseason, this team has really pulled it together and really found a way to be a team that is there for each other.”
It was 1-1 at halftime after Reibling found the net from 20 yards out against Kahok backup goalie Tate Wyatt with 3:50 left in the half. That was the third shot for the Ironmen, whose second shot, a 20-yard goal by Reibling was waved off because of a pushing foul.
“I just had great passes from my teammates,” said Reibling, whose first goal came off Halcomb’s through ball.
The Kahoks, who came in on a five-game winning streak, opened the scoring when NCHS goalie Austin Woodside bravely came off his line only to see Logan Whitehead slip a slow roller into the net from 25 yards out. That effort was Whitehead’s team-leading 16th goal.
“There were parts of the game where they were utterly in control, especially early,” Chapman said. “We were trying to figure out what to do. We found a way to knock one in and all of a sudden it was game on.”
A mere 45 seconds into the second half, a Halcomb shot rebounded to Nick Leming, who put NCHS ahead to stay with his sixth goal of the year.
“The keeper let it bounce off his hands,” Leming said. “I’m not going to miss that one.”
Leming chalked up the win to teamwork.
“Coach gave 11 guys one pencil before the game and had them break it,” Leming said. “Then he gave one guy 11 pencils and had him try to break that. He couldn’t break it so that really shows what kind of a team we are when we all play together.”
NCHS penciled in a 3-1 lead with 19:42 left after a Tyler Arias corner kick was headed in by Griffin Bruso for his team-leading 17th goal.
Reibling made it 4-1 with 6:48 left after a one-on-one situation with the goalie.
“I saw the corner and put it there,” said Reibling after his 15th goal of the season.
Collinsville ended the scoring with 3:52 left when Trey Przybysz fired in a rocket. The Ironmen were outshot, 17-10, but it didn’t matter.
“It’s really fun to watch them attack because they are super unselfish,” Chapman said. “Even the near misses are fun.”
Collinsville, a four-time state champion, played without starting goalie Austin Gavlick, who was injured against Edwardsville in the sectional semifinals. The Kahoks also reached last year’s sectional final where they lost to Peoria Notre Dame.
“They are a good team,” said Collinsville coach Rob Lugge of the Ironmen. “They scored on their opportunities. We had many chances and didn’t put them away. That’s just kind of how soccer is.”