LEWISTON — As the frantic final minutes ticked off the clock, Lewiston protected a one-goal lead.

The Bangor Rams were bringing everything they had to force the equalizer, but the Blue Devils’ back line wasn’t going to be beaten.

Lewiston’s defense didn’t break. It barely bent. As Bangor pressed for an opportunity, the Blue Devils held firm. They weren’t surviving on desperation but determination.

“We were having fun,” junior defender Zakariya Abdulle said. “When they score, you feel bummed out. You don’t want them to score anymore.”

Lewiston had gotten the only goal it needed in last Friday’s Eastern A semifinal. Now it was the defense’s job to complete the win. It was a task they relished. They played with energy and a thrill in fighting off the last hopes of their opponent.

Even though they had two defenders hurt in the final minutes, Mohamed Khalid and Ibrahim Hussein didn’t bow out of the action. They stayed in and completed the mission.

“We get fired up,” junior keeper Austin Wing said. “It’s like we score a goal, we get all fired up, and (the other teams) don’t get a lot of shots anymore.”

The play of Lewiston’s defense is often overlooked, especially since the dazzling play of the Blue Devils at the other end often attracts attention. Lewiston has scored 66 goals and gone 15-0-1 as it readies for Wednesday’s Eastern A final against Brunswick (12-2-2). It is one of the highest-scoring teams in Blue Devils soccer history.

Meanwhile, the defense has put up pretty impressive numbers as well. Lewiston has only allowed 12 goals all season. Since tying Brunswick last month, 2-2, Lewiston has allowed just three goals and posted four shutouts in the last seven outings. That includes back-to-back playoff shutouts against Mt. Blue and Bangor.

Wing has been solid in goal for the Blue Devils, while KVAC first-team all-star Mike Wong has been a standout in front of him. Abdulle and Hussein have helped give the Blue Devils a solid and experienced group that makes Lewiston a strong team from back to front.

“They’re holding their own,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “It’s remarkable how well they’re playing. The guys are around them. It’s more than just them. Everybody’s contributing. It’s really a team. They’re sticking together, and they’re working their tails off.”

Lewiston graduated some key players from the backline but still had some experience back with Wing in goal and Wong and Hussein in front of him. Abdulle and Aden Mohamed were newcomers to the mix this fall but stepped into larger roles. They’ve gradually progressed into a solid group that anchors all that the Blue Devils do.

“We’ve gotten a lot better over the year,” said Hussein, a senior defender. “We know where each guy is going to be.”

Lewiston’s game is at its best when the Blue Devils are moving the ball and creating continuous waves of attack. It is the back that helps feed the offense. When teams try to pressure the Lewiston end, the Blue Devils often thwart that attack and quickly transition the ball the other way. It forces many opponents to do significant chasing against the Blue Devils speed and skill.

The back line is supported by midfielders like Maulid Adow, Noralddin Othman, Adbulkarim Abdulle and Mohamed Abdisalan. They get the ball from the back up to guys like Hassan Mohamed and Abdi Shariff up front.

“All we have to do is work hard and keep the ball out and not let them score,” Zakariya Abdulle said.

Lewiston had to adjust its back after it lost Aden Mohamed before the playoffs. He was a regular starter that the Blue Devils had to replace just before playing Mt. Blue in the quarterfinals.

“He was a very good defender,” Abdulle said. “I was a little bit worried, but Mohamed Khalid is a very good defender.”

Lewiston had Joseph Kalilwa fill in the first game. Then Khalid moved from the midfield back to defense. He did a fine job there, despite getting banged up late in the game against the Rams. Lewiston posted shutouts in both tournament games.

“Three of us, we play with each other year-round,” Hussein said of himself, Khalid and Abdulle.

Between passing and working together well, Lewiston has established a solid team effort that extends well beyond the back line.

“Being vocal is the main thing we’ve worked on,” said Hussein, who also noted the composure the defenders display down the stretch.

With potentially two games left to play, the Blue Devils can sense their goal within reach and are trying to play their best soccer this final week. Though the back line may still exist in some anonymity, that’s OK if the job gets done.

“We’ve stepped up throughout the playoffs,” Wing said. “We’ve gotten better and better every game.”

Now Lewiston returns to the regional final, where the Blue Devils have lost in heartbreaking fashion the last two years. They face a Brunswick team that rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie Lewiston. It was probably one of the Blue Devils’ worst second halves of the season.

“We wanted to get here,” McGraw said. “We wanted another shot at it. At this point, anybody can win. We’ve proved it (in the 1-0 semifinal) and they certainly proved it in Western Maine.”

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