LEWISTON — They were well on their way.

That’s what it felt like Wednesday night to the Lewiston boys’ soccer team. The Blue Devils scored two quick goals early in their Eastern A quarterfinal and it felt like victory.

Lewiston defeated Messalonskee at the end of the regular season, and the quick lead had the Blue Devils feeling a little too comfortable.

“We got off to a 2-0 start,” said senior midfielder Abdibarri Hersi. “It was the same team we had just beaten. We stopped doing what we do.”

Messalonskee didn’t give up and the Eagles forced Lewiston to step up its game. The Blue Devils were ultimately able to fend off the challenge for a 3-1 win. Second-ranked Lewiston will host Bangor on Saturday in the semifinal round.

Lewiston got a goal and an assist from Hersi and goals from Maslah Hassan and Abdi Shariff-Hassan.

Lewiston (12-1-2) beat Messalonskee 6-1 in the next-to-last game of the regular season. With that easy victory and a little rust from the layoff, the Blue Devils were primed for a struggle in their playoff game.

“I warned them that this is a playoff game and that Messalonskee is a team that’s not going to forget, but they’re not going to remember it either,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “They know it’s a one-shot deal. Their kids played their brains out in the second half.”

Lewiston came out hard and played well. The Blue Devils had a number of early chances and then scored twice in a span of 1:38 for the quick 2-0 lead.

“We kind of thought it was going to be an easy game,” Hersi said. “We beat them 6-1 and most of us weren’t even playing. We were just sitting on the bench. So I think we thought it was going to be an easy game. I tried to tell the guys, but it didn’t work, I guess.”

Hassan had the first goal, just 14:03 into the game. A ball was sent ahead for Hassan. He outraced a defender and had an open look at the net.

Then Hersi made it 2-0. He cut right toward the net and ripped a shot.

“When we got the first goal, we got excited,” Hersi said. “Then we got another and that goal brought us down because we thought we had won the game already.”

Seventh-seeded Messalonskee (6-7-2)  had its share of chances in the first half and managed to mount some counter attacks, even though Lewiston was producing good chances.

In the second half, the Eagles won the ball and put the pressure on the Blue Devils. Quinn Warren nearly scored with 22:17 left when he cut past a defender and had an open shot. Lewiston keeper Austin Wing made a great save to preserve the 2-0 lead.

Then minutes later, Brandon Nale fired a shot from the right side that when in off a diving Wing to make it 2-1 with 19:43 left.

That fueled hopes for Messalonskee’s comeback but it also sparked Lewiston.

“They came out and wanted that goal and they got it,” Hersi said. “Once they got it, everyone knew it was going to be a game. So we stepped it up as much as we could.”

Lewiston began to play some of its best soccer in of the second half in response. The Blue Devils moved the ball more effectively and didn’t allow the Eagles to win possession or dictate play as they had been.

“Once we started passing the ball, we did better,” McGraw said. “What they were doing is they’d see that we’d try to improve a touch, and they’d just come running. What did they have to lose? They didn’t care about their body or how it looked. They were going to go after that ball because they were playing hard and we were trying to control the ball. Once we started to play quicker, we got better.”

Lewiston managed to limit the Messalonskee momentum and then sealed it with  4:49 left. Hersi put a corner kick out to Abdi Shariff-Hassan. He put a nifty shot above the crowd and into the net for the 3-1 lead.

“They put us to a test and showed us the playoff intensity that we need,” McGraw said. “We’re going to have to play a lot better. We survived a bad game on our part.”

Lewiston hosted third-ranked Bangor earlier in the season and beat the Rams in the previous meeting 3-2.

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