Lewiston High School players, including Bilal Hersi (10), Yusuf Mohamed (8) and Suab Nur (19) celebrate Hersi’s goal in the second half during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday. At left is Edward Little’s Jamaine Luizzo.
LEWISTON — The way rivals Lewiston and Edward Little were battling for the first part of the first half of Saturday’s Class A North boys’ soccer semifinal, whichever team took advantage of an opportunity first was going to have the biggest advantage throughout.
The Blue Devils got that opportunity. They seized it — and the game’s momentum — and eventually the victory in a 4-0 win at Bates College’s Garcelon Field.
There was plenty of back-and-forth play between the boxes, but no shots on goal, until Warsame Ali chipped the ball over the EL defense to Cooper Millett just under 20 minutes in. Millett, who started the season as the Blue Devils’ starting goalie, scored his first goal of the season with a strike out of the reach of Red Eddies goalie Eli Thibodeau.
“We played uncharacteristically I think, either nervous or anxious,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “But you got to give EL credit because they put some pressure on us that we hadn’t seen since the last time we played them. But their pressure (this time) was a lot more intense. We recovered, and then when Cooper got that goal — which I think was a very opportune time to use him because he’s very quick and he can score — it was a perfect time to get his first goal.”
Red Eddies coach Tim Mains said the opportunity came from a bad bounce for his team.
“Found our guy in the midfield off a goal kick, we get a mis-touch, and it went to their playmaker, (Ali),” Mains said. “We were man-marking him the whole game, and it just happened that we had a mis-touch and he found a little bit of space and played a perfect ball in behind the defense.”
The Blue Devils doubled their lead less than five minutes later. Hamza Ali’s corner kick from the right side bounced around in the box to Noralddin Othman, who put a shot out of the scrum into the back of the net.
“I was like, ‘Let me just get it in,'” Othman said. “The ball just fell down in the box and I just tipped it in.”
That 2-0 score stood at halftime, giving Lewiston momentum, if not complete comfort. The Red Eddies, on the other hand, were anything but comfortable staring down the end of their season.
“At halftime, my boys were walking off with their heads down and they thought the game was lost,” Mains said. “But we’ve scored seven goals in a half before. We wanted to get that message across that we could score, too. And to just stay positive with each other, and to keep positive body language.”
EL had something to be positive about early in the second half, getting multiple chances in the first 10 minutes, but nothing would go in. Alex Thompson’s free kick went wide two minutes in. Ahmed Safi’s went high three minutes later. A Thompson corner kick to the head of Safi went wide three minutes after that.
“It felt as if Lewiston was about to break. Something was about to go our way,” Mains said. “And the longer that we prolonged that feeling before putting one away, that puts a lot of pressure on our defenders, and they had a quick counter. And then once that third goal went in, that’s hard to respond to.”
Yusuf Mohamed put the dagger in with less than 15 minutes to play. He ran on to a bouncing ball on the counter, corralled it and then flipped a shot over a way drawn-out Thibodeau.
“When we got the third goal, I thought that gave us a lot of breathing room,” McGraw said.
Muktar Ali hammered the final nail in the coffin 79 seconds later with a solid strike from the right side to make it 4-0.
“It hurts. I feel for my seniors the most,” Mains said. “To have 15 seniors, to go out 4-0. I mean, the game, I felt, was a lot closer than a 4-0 game. A couple balls bounce our way, a couple balls don’t bounce their way, it could have been a different result.”
As with any rivalry game, emotions ran high. They boiled over in the final minute, and the referees called the game with four seconds left after a red card given to EL’s Jamaine Luizzo led to a scrum.
“I think it’s frustration,” Mains said. “Definitely should have been able to handle the end of that game a little bit better than we did.”
Despite the late-game tension, McGraw had positive things to say about his longtime rival.
“I’ve got to give them and their coaching staff credit,” McGraw said. “They lose two starters during the course of the end of the season, they lose a starting keeper, and their backup keeper is just an athlete on the field that is doing the best that he can, and they’re in a semifinal. That tells you just how hard they work and how good they work.”
Thibodeau made four saves for the Red Eddies, while Dido Lumu had two for Lewiston.
The Blue Devils, who were 2-0-1 against the Red Eddies this season, now get to face Bangor for a third time, looking for that same kind of positive result. Lewiston lost to the top-seeded Rams during the regular season and in the KVAC championship, but get a third crack against Bangor in the North regional final.
“Means a lot,” McGraw said. “Means everything, because I think the goal was to get back to that game, and to just see if we can find a way to get to a final.”
Lewiston High School’s Warsame Ali (7) battles with Edward Little’s Mnawer Dubai during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday.Edward Little High School’s Jacob Kyajohnian (18) protects the ball as Lewiston’s Bilal Hersi (10) and Muktar Ali (9) bear down on him during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday.Edward Little High School’s Jacob Kyajohnian (18) wins a ball as Lewiston’s Bilal Hersi (10) tries to get a foot on it during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday.Lewiston High School’s Warsame Ali (7) sprints away with the ball after swiping it from Edward Little’s Tyler Morin (back) while EL’s Oliver Hall (17) gives chase during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday.Lewiston High School’s Cooper Millett (27) celebrates his first-half goal against Edward Little during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday.Lewiston High School’s Muktar Ali, right, tries to steal the ball from Edward Little’s Jacob Kyajohnian (18) in front of EL’s Christian Beliveau during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday.Edward Little high School’s Alex Thompson, right, and Lewiston’s Bilal Hersi jostle for the ball during their soccer match on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday.