The Blue Devils’ season will come to an end Saturday after the biggest game of their lifetimes: The Class A state championship. They have worked diligently for the last year with Saturday’s contest in mind.

“It feels like it took forever to get back to this game,” Shariff, a senior forward, said. “We finally did it. We just have to keep working.”

Lewiston lost to Cheverus in the state final last fall. Since that loss, the Blue Devils vowed to do whatever it took, not only to get back to this game, but also to finish the right way.

Shariff has epitomized that effort.

“This season, that last game of last year, definitely motivated us,” Shariff said. “It’s made us work hard this year. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get back to this game. We just kept working hard every day.”

Shariff and his fellow seniors have gone 49-2-5 during the regular season the past four years and have gone to the regional final all four years, winning the past two. The Blue Devils made winning look easy this fall, outscoring teams 113-7. They  even reached the Top 20 on USA Today’s rankings of high school teams across the country. Their closest game was a 3-1 win over Camden Hills.

While the wins game relatively easy at times, the Blue Devils never lost their sense of direction and Shariff’s dedication and focus were a driving force behind Lewiston’s success.

“We just can’t take anything for granted,” Shariff said. “We can’t look at the games in the past. We have to keep thinking that the other team is going to give us something challenging the next game. We can’t take anything for granted, and we have to keep moving on.”

Lewiston wants more of the same against Scarborough.

Edward Little, Bangor and Hampden all tried to slow the Blue Devils down in the tournament, only to lose by a combined 13-0. Lewiston wore down all three opponents and broke open 1-0 leads at the half. Shariff has four of the team’s goals in the playoffs and four assists, as well.

“What I thought was great was that he came into the season better,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “He came in focused. He studied the game. He told me how he wanted to do better on the field. He said he wanted to be a better communicator in the field because he watched Bates play. He’s always learning. He’s a good student of the game. He’s never going to let himself stand pat. He’s never going to be satisfied without being the best player he can be on the field for himself and for his team.”

Shariff was one of the top players in the state last year, earning all-conference and all-state honors, but he’s taken his play up a notch this year. If he’s not speeding past a stunned and stoic defender, he’s weaving through defenses like traffic cones. He’s as deadly with a shot as he is with a pass. If he’s not doing something eye-popping with the ball, he setting somebody else up for a great play. He makes the players around him better. As talented as Lewiston is overall, Shariff is the cog in the middle of it all.

“He’s actually been a pretty good leader since his sophomore year,” McGraw said. “Even when he was a freshman, you could see the leadership quality.”

Shariff, who also excells in track and is a partner with the Unified Basketball program, wanted to take that role to another level, just as he did his play this year. He wanted the best out of himself as well as his team.

“I think I’ve improved a lot as a leader,” Shariff said. “Last year, we were all quiet in the field. We had a lot of talented players but we were all quiet. This year, I became more mature as a leader on the field and off the field.”

He’s still a soft-spoken player that speaks volumes through his play and his effort.

“Just being a leader doesn’t mean speaking to the guys,” Shariff said. “This year, one thing I’ve changed is trying to be an example as a leader, working hard at practice and coming back on defense, just being a good example.”

Shariff has the respect of his teammates and his coaches. As the school’s all-time leading scorer, he’ll be a player future aspiring Blue Devils will emulate.

And he’s not a bad example for current and future players to learn from.

He’s been such a reliable force within the team, that McGraw admits he’s never had to worry about whether Shariff was working hard or trying to improve.

“I just expected him to be a more mature and physical player,” McGraw said. “I didn’t worry because I knew he was going to do a lot of stuff on his own. He was going to make sure that other players were taking care of themselves and doing things. He’s a guy that I don’t have to worry about. He’s his own man.”

In fact, McGraw sees Shariff as an extension of the Lewiston coaching staff. Lewiston has a talented and veteran group of seniors that have been staples in the Blue Devils lineup, including Shariff, Abdulkarim Abdulle and Zakariya Abdulle. But it’s through Shariff that most of the Devils’ offense runs. 

“What’s nice about him is that he’s another coach on the field, just like Karim is,” McGraw said. “Those two guys, they can take a break in the action and refocus guys. In the second half, they can talk to them and say this is what we should be doing. I don’t have to tell him to do certain things. I don’t have to tell him to come back and help. He does that on his own. He likes it, and he understands the game and understands where things are supposed to happen and how it is supposed to happen.”

Shariff said he’s received a wealth of attention from college coaches, but he is still looking into options, whether going to prep school for a year or going straight to a four-year school. After the state game, he said he may start making some college visits and exploring his future.

For now, he’s focused on Saturday. After the Class A North regional final win over Hampden Academy, Shariff knew his Lewiston career was down to one more game, the moment he and his teammates have been chasing for a year.

“You just have to focus on practice and not think about it,” Shariff said. “We’re definitely going to have it in our heads 24-7. It’s going to be the last game for a lot of us. I know the guys are just going to play 100 percent.”

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