LEWISTON — With the start of a new playoff season Tuesday night, Lewiston boys’ soccer coach Mike McGraw didn’t want to see any sign of letdown from his Blue Devils.
So prior to an Eastern A quarterfinal with Mt. Blue, McGraw wanted his team to live in the moment rather than dwell on the past.
His team had beaten the Cougars in the regular season, but he didn’t want his team taking anything for granted this time around. His point of emphasis was a strong start and an early lead.
That’s just what the Blue Devils did. Lewiston scored early and often and cruised to a 6-0 win over Mt. Blue. Lewiston will host Bangor in the semifinals. The Rams beat Mt. Ararat 1-0 Tuesday.
“We talked about that (kind of start),” said McGraw, whose team beat Mt. Blue 6-1 earlier in the year. “I said that they might put a shell around the goal and try to frustrate us. The best thing for us to do would be to score one early and try to get them out of a defensive shell.”
Junior midfielder Abdulkarim Abdulle scored just 1:57 into the game and didn’t stop there. He finished with three goals and two assists while Abdi Shariff added a goal and an assist. Abdikarim Ahmed and Mohamed Abdisalan also scored for Lewiston.
“Speedy (Hassan) Mohamed got a great cross and Karim was right there with a great finish,” McGraw said of the first goal.
Top-ranked Lewiston (14-0-1) was playing without two starters. Senior defender Aden Mohamed and junior forward Gage Cote were out of the lineup for disciplinary reasons. Neither McGraw or athletic director Jason Fuller would confirm how long the players would be grounded.
As disappointing and distracting as that situation was, McGraw tried to keep his team focused.
“That was a team issue, and we had the next game to play,” said McGraw, who had many players sporting blue streaks in their hair.
Sophomore midfielder Maulid Abdow and sophomore defender Joseph Kalilwa stepped into the starting roles and did a nice job. Adow set up the fourth goal early in the second half.
“These kids play together all the time,” McGraw said. “I’m very proud of them. I’m very proud of the team. Now we get ready for (Bangor).”
Lewiston scored on its first shot of the game. Hassan Mohamed made a great run down the right side. His cross went to the front of the net where Abdulle was there to redirect it in.
“He crossed the ball,” Abdulle said. “I saw the defender was a little bit off. So I just had to touch the ball.”
The lead went to 2-0 at 14:02. Shariff made a pass from the right side. Abdulle was in front again to bury it.
“(Getting that first goal) gave us motivation to want to score more,” Adbulle said.
Then with 7:47 left in the first half, Abdulle set up Shariff in the middle for a 3-0 lead.
Mt. Blue (6-9-1) didn’t get a shot on until 12:50 left in the first half. In the second half, the Cougars got some nice runs and even had a bid by Thomas Wing hit the crossbar. His followup on the rebound was cleared.
“It’s dangerous when you give a team like Mt. Blue a chance,” McGraw said. “You could hear them. They were cheering. They were looking for anything to be positive. If you let them out just a little bit, they can be dangerous.”
Keeper Colton Lawrence did a nice job for the Cougars, making 14 saves as Lewiston outshot Mt. Blue 24-8. Lewiston’s Austin Wing made five saves for the Blue Devils’ fifth shutout.
Lewiston continued to play well and didn’t let up. The Blue Devils gave the Cougars little opportunity to change the pace of the game or the momentum.
“We kept the ball down and played our game,” Abdulle said. “”We did our best. This is a game where you can’t take it easy. We had to play a 100 percent game.”
The Blue Devils made it 4-0 at 12:19 of the second half. Abdow made a nice pass ahead for Abdulle. He moved in for an open shot and his third tally. Then just over a minute later, Abdulle set up Ahmed for a goal. He had a nice shot to the top right corner for the 5-0 lead. With 5:19 left, Abdisalan finished the scoring with a goal from in front.
“We were able to play some key guys and we played well,” McGraw said.