AUBURN — The Lewiston boys’ soccer team got a taste of something different Tuesday — and didn’t like it one bit.
For the first time all season, the Blue Devils were forced to play from behind. Edward Little scored early in the second half to present Lewiston its first deficit of the season. The Blue Devils reacted with a late comeback and 3-1 victory over the Red Eddies.
“We had to see how we’d react to playing from behind,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “An own goal is as devastating as having somebody score on you. We persisted. I thought we showed a lot of character there. We kept the pressure on and we got the breaks we needed.”
Lewiston got penalty kicks from Abdulkarim Abdulle and Abdirahman Shariff and the game-winner from Gage Cote. The Blue Devils finish the regular season at 13-0-1 and the top seed in Eastern A. It is the first time Lewiston has gone undefeated since 1981 and just the third time overall.
“It was shocking,” said Cote of the deficit early in the second half. “We were asleep in the first half. The first two minutes, nobody was really pumped up like the last few games. It was a shock to have it ricochet and go in the net.”
Lewiston scored three goals in the final 12:30, including two in a span of 1:07.
“Upping the intensity was a big thing,” Cote said. “We kept talking. We stayed up and cheered each other on.”
Edward Little’s goal came from Maslah Hassan. The Red Eddies finished 8-5-1 and remain in sixth in Eastern A. EL got a great game from keeper Lew Jensen, but Lewiston’s attack late in the second half proved too much for the Red Eddies to stop.
“The second penalty kick they gave was well-deserved,” said EL coach Matt Andreasen. “I thought the first one was a miserable call. It seemed to deflate us. We need to do a better job dealing with adversity. Tonight, that seemed to sap us of our momentum at that time. I thought that call really changed the momentum of the game.”
EL had taken the lead just 1:32 into the second half. Hassan had a free kick outside the box. His shot toward the net hit at a Lewiston defender and was redirected inside the left post. It was just the 12th goal Lewiston has allowed all season.
While EL gave Lewiston its first deficit, the Red Eddies also threatened to hand the Blue Devils its first shutout. Lewiston has scored nearly 60 goals this season.
“I think the difference between being one-and-done in October is that teams that win in the playoffs make the plays,” Andreasen said.
After Hassan’s goal, EL threatened and had another chance that was cleared by a Lewiston defender. Then the Blue Devils starting putting pressure on. Cote had a shot smothered by Jensen. Mohamed Abdisalan popped one over the net. Noralddin Othman had a pair of shots and Shariff took a Hassan Mohamed pass and hit the post.
“I thought EL played very well,” said McGraw, who was an assistant coach the last time Lewiston went undefeated in the regular season. “I think we were on our toes a couple of times. We had opportunities to put the ball in that we did not do. A good team’s got to be able to score when their supposed to. We didn’t at times, and we created some chances when we got down a goal.”
The tying goal came with 12:30 left. There was a foul on a Lewiston rush. That led to Abdulle getting a penalty kick. He shot low and to the left and Jensen dove the other way and the game was tied.
Then with 11:23 remaining, Cote got the ball and was open. His shot on the left side curled toward the net and went in off a diving Jensen.
“I think it was Speedy (Mohamed) that crossed it,” Cote said. “It went between one of our player’s legs. Nobody was covering me. I just waited for the right bounce and shot it.”
It was a stunning turn over events for an EL team that had played so hard. EL had a couple of late threats. Hassan had a free kick that went over the net. Then another dead ball led to Jarod Norcross Plourde putting the ball in play in front, but Lewiston was able to clear it.
Another Lewiston rush drew the second foul call in the box. Shariff buried the penalty kick to the left corner with 3:50 left.
“We didn’t make enough played to win the game,” Andreasen said. “Truthfully, I didn’t think Lewiston was making enough plays to win the game, but that play was sort of made for them with that (first penalty kick) call. That gave them the life they needed. It jump started their engine, and they took off from there.”
Both teams had opportunity in the first half. EL’s Elijah Roe put one over the net in the first half. The Red Eddies had another bid cleared away from an open net by Lewiston defender Aden Mohamed.
Shariff had a prime chance for Lewiston but Jensen made a diving save. Hassan had a nice rush down the wing for a shot. Shariff had another chance down the middle that was broken up and Othman had a try off a volley that was saved.
“Our kids really fought for that and they did it the right way,” McGraw said. “There weren’t any cheap fouls. They maintained their composure. They played the game and stuck to the business at hand. I’m very proud of them for that.”