Trailing by a goal entering the second half, the Blue Devils mounted a furious comeback and forced overtime Wednesday in their Eastern A championship game against top-seeded Hampden Academy.

But the comeback hopes were dashed in the first overtime when Tristan Gardner headed in the game-winner with 6:56 remaining to stun the second-ranked Blue Devils, 3-2. Lewiston also lost in overtime of the regional final last year, to Mt. Ararat.

“We played hard and we came back twice,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “It was one of those games. They got the break and we didn’t.”

Hampden (16-1) advances to Saturday’s state championship game in Bath to play Scarborough.

Lewiston (13-2-2) controlled play for much of the final 30 minutes and overtime, but it was just one opportunity for the Broncos in overtime that led to the winner.

Noah Parker won possession in the midfield and sent the ball forward to the right side. Dan Good was there to volley it to the middle. Gardner read the play the entire time and was waiting for it.

“I saw a beautiful cross come in by Noah Parker,” Gardner said. “I saw my fellow striker Dan Good on the right. I knew he was going to head it over towards the goal or to me. He played a perfect ball to me. I saw the goalie in the left panel and the right panel was open. That’s where I headed it.”

Lewiston keeper Austin Wing barely had a chance to move as Gardner buried his third goal of the game and seventh against Lewiston this season. He had all four goals in a 4-0 regular-season win.

“That’s something we’ve been working on the last two weeks,” Hampden coach Josh Stevens said. “That’s something I will never forget.”

It was a stunning loss for Lewiston, which played a tremendous second half. Like last year, Lewiston rallied to tie it in regulation only to lose in overtime.

Down 2-1, the Blue Devils started slowly in the second half. Hampden had a prime chance to add to the lead when Ben Foster sent the ball ahead in front, but Lewiston was able to clear. The rest of the half was mostly Lewiston. The Blue Devils got the ball moving and had the Broncos chasing.

“They just needed to come out of a funk,” McGraw said. “They did. Oh my God, they did. It was a really nice thing to see.”

 Abdulkarim Abdulle was superb in the midfield and helped spark a transition game that helped feed the Blue Devils up front. Hampden had done a nice job bottling up the middle in the first half, but Lewiston was winning possession and opening the game in the second.

Abdulle, Abdibaari Hersi and Abdi Shariff-Hassan all had bids early in the second half as Lewiston put continuous pressure on the Broncos defense.

Lewiston is a great team,” Gardner said. “They’re so hard to defend. The defense has the hardest job, trying to work back all the time. Lewiston, they’re dancing around the ball and they have quick legs. It’s hard to defend them. I’m really proud of my defense for working hard the whole game. (Lewiston) really put it to them today.”

Lewiston tied the game with 12:13 left in regulation. Abdulle sent the ball ahead for Maslah Hassan. He shook off a defender and got in alone for an open shot that beat keeper Isaiah Bess.

Still carrying the momentum, Lewiston had a bid by Shariff-Hassan on a Hersi cross that was saved. Hersi then had a try from the right side that went wide.

“We had some chances,” McGraw said. “We had a few go wide. It was going over or just wide. You’ve got to be on frame. We weren’t.”

Despite the relentless pressure, Hampden weathered the storm. They maintained some composure and didn’t break down defensively or make a critical mistake.

“I think that has to do with the guys that were in this game a couple years ago,” Stevens said. “We have most of that team with us. They were freshmen and some sophomores. They understand what it takes to win. When they equalized, they knew if we came out and played our game, we’d have a chance to win. That’s all we wanted was a chance.”

Lewiston played well in the first half, but the Broncos did a nice job slowing the game down and clogging the middle. The Blue Devils had possession and created pressure offensively, but it wasn’t the quick paced attack Lewiston does so effectively.

Hampden got the first goal just 8:43 in when Paxton Oversmith sent the ball forward for Gardner. He was able to get past a defender and put it by a charging Wing for the 1-0 lead.

Lewiston tied it with 10:46 left in the half. Abdulle hit the crossbar from the outside. The ball ricocheted downward and deflected in off Bess for the equalizer.

That momentum was short-lived because Hampden took the lead back with 8:00 left. Parker made a cross from the left side and Gardner was in front for a quick tip.

Between that goal and halftime, Lewiston lost a great deal of its energy but started to mount an attack early in the second half. It proved to be a continuous one that Hampden had to defend.

“Coach McGraw does a great job with those guys,” Stevens said. “We know we’re going to get their best game every single time. When they started to change momentum, I got nervous for just a second but I could see the team was going to weather that storm and try to comeback.

“When they tied it, I assumed we had another one in us. I was just hoping we’d be the first team to score.”

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