Lewiston High School’s Bilal Hersi (10) fires the ball past Mt. Ararat midfielder Max Spelke and into the net for the Blue Devils’ third goal during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park on Saturday. The goal was the game-winner in a 3-2 Lewiston win.
LEWISTON — Lewiston High School head boys’ soccer coach Mike McGraw described his team’s battle with Mt. Ararat as two teams in a heavyweight bout.
“One round is this guy, the other round is that guy,” McGraw said. “I give credit to our guys to for having the resiliency to win the game.”
The Blue Devils weathered an early punch or two, rebounded and then hung on to win 3-2 in a Class A North showdown at Lewiston Athletic Park on the campus of Lewiston Middle School, a field unfamiliar to both teams.
“Both teams played an away game,” McGraw mused.
The field didn’t appear to be a problem for either team, in terms of generating offense, though. Mt. Ararat’s Travis Nadeau came out swinging, scoring just a minute-and-a-half into the contest on a rebound from the top of the penalty box. Eagles coach Jack Rioux was pleased with his striker’s performance.
“He can just go,” Rioux said. “He’s got a motor, has lots of heart, tough, and a great player. He’s always going and makes the players around him better.”
Not to be outdone, Lewiston’s Bilal Hersi got the Blue Devils on the board after a throw-in pass from Ayub Hassan. Hersi got the ball on his foot, backed down the defender and turned to strike the ball into the top-right corner of the goal.
“He showed his flair and his desire, and that is huge,” McGraw said. “What a great game he had.”
After 17 total combined shots in the first half, Nadeau picked up where he left off in the second, when he got a long throw-in pass from Dalton Streeter seven minutes in. Nadeau shot from about ten feet in front of goal and made it past Lewiston goalkeeper Cooper Millett, who tallied eight saves on the day.
Streeter’s long throw-ins were a problem for Lewiston, creating offensive opportunities for the Eagles at every turn.
“Dealing with Mt. Ararat’s set pieces is a very difficult thing to do, as you can see,” McGraw said. “We got better and better, but I have to give them credit.”
Just four minutes later, while Lewiston’s offense started to put the pressure on the Eagles being down a goal, Hersi tacked on another goal. He gained possession on the left side of the field and drove into the penalty box, chipping it over the keeper’s head and in off the far goalpost, tying the game.
Lewiston’s will to continue to fight was obvious from the start.
“That’s a great characteristic to have,” McGraw said. “To know that when there is time on the clock you have the ability to tie or win the game … Our kids were resilient.”
Three minutes had passed after Hersi’s second goal when Hersi got the ball back from Mt. Ararat and toe-poked the ball past the keeper into the net for his hat trick and, more importantly, the Lewiston lead.
Lewiston created many chances, putting up a total of 18 shots directed at Eagles goalkeeper Gavin Patterson. That was the game plan from the start.
“Our key thing is to pass and pass and wear the team out, then get a chance to strike,” Abdilahi Abdi said.
As the game wound down, Lewiston held off an increased Eagles attack. Mt. Ararat had two throw-ins in the final minutes in Lewiston’s end, but couldn’t capitalize.
Lewiston High School’s Mardoche Kikoba (5) and Yusuf Mohamed (8) go up for a ball over Mt. Ararat’s Travis Nadeau (10) and Mason Brigham, left, during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park on Saturday.Lewiston High School’s Yusuf Mohamed, right, and Mt. Ararat’s Will San Pedro go up for a header during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park on Saturday.Lewiston High School goalkeeper Cooper Millett snags the ball on a long corner kick by Mt. Ararat in front of a gaggle of players during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park on Saturday.Lewiston High School’s Warsame Ali, left, and Mt. Ararat’s Alex Bryant battle for the ball during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park on Saturday.
Lewiston High School’s Henok Citenga, right, and Mt. Ararat’s Max Spelke jostle for the ball during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park on Saturday.