Oxford Hills’ Shane Kubicek fights for control of the ball with Edward Little’s Chase Martin, right, during the season opening soccer game in Auburn on Tuesday night/ Edward Little’s Christian Beliveau comes into the play on the left. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Edward Little trailed two different times in the first half against Oxford Hills on Thursday afternoon. Coach Tim Mains told the players at halftime that they were going have to outwork the Vikings if they wanted to have any chance of winning.

The Red Eddies were able to score the game-winner with 16 minutes remaining in the second half to secure the 3-2 boys’ soccer win in the first game of the season for both teams.

“I told them in years past Oxford Hills has been kind of a down team and the past two years we have had such high skill that we could afford to come out here and maybe not put our best foot forward,” Mains said. “We don’t have that skill this year so we have to play our butts off and play every minute of the game or else something like that can happen.”

The first half was a wild 40 minutes of shot-after-shot for both sides, including Oxford Hills firing in nine. The Vikings opened up the scoring with a goal from Spencer Strong on a rebound from about 10 feet away.

Edward Little trailed for just 10 minutes before it equalized with a goal from first-year soccer player and basketball standout Wol Maiwen. Xajay Brooks received the ball on the left side of the penalty box and skated by a couple of defenders and then fooled a Viking defender in the box before crossing it to an open Maiwen on the right side.

“It felt good,” Maiwen said. “I was trying to get to the ball at the right time and use my height as an advantage for our team by getting a lot of balls in the air.”

The Red Eddies committed three offsides penalties in the first half, which contributed to them being outshot 9-4 in the first half. With just under five minutes remaining in the half, the Vikings charged Edward Little goalkeeper Mack Sampson and scored via the right foot of Will Dieterich to take a 2-1 lead.

It appeared the Vikings were going to take some much-needed momentum into halftime until EL’s Christian Beliveau earned the ball at midfield and out-paced the Vikings backline and slotted the ball past Oxford Hills goalkeeper Sam Morton to tie the scored at 2-2 with one minute remaining.

“I think it was perfect,” Beliveau said of the goal. “It gave us a big momentum boost going into the half and it really pumped us up.”

With so-few returning players, Mains leaned on his senior captain for leadership and received it Thursday.

“Christian is the model athlete,” Mains said. “You can point to Christian and say, ‘Look how hard he is working.’ He’s a human and he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like you do in the morning. We have to work hard. It’s not going to come easily for us and we have to outwork teams if we are going to win, that’s just how it is. So to point to a senior captain, a kid that has been doing this for four years now, and say, ‘Look how hard he’s working, still,’ is huge for these young guys.”

Edward Little came out of the gates in the second half charging and on the attack. In a 180-degree turn from how they opened the first half, the Eddies put up multiple shots in the first few minutes, including a close miss from Maiwen on a header.

With 23 minutes remaining, Jake Jackson threw one of his flip throw-ins into the box to Hassan Jibril, who shot was on-target but was stopped by a diving Morton.

Jibril received a second chance just a few minutes later when Mnawer Dubai crossed the ball from right to left in front of net for Maiwen, who reached his leg high to tap it in front of goal for Jibril to finish put Edward Little up 3-2.

Maiwen’s size was a factor all match and will be something teams will need to game plan for going forward.

“He has such great size and it’s rare to see a guy who is 6-foot-5 out there,” Mains said. “In the preseason we worked with him on judging the ball in the air, and I thought he did a great job of winning balls and he put a lot on frame.”

The game progressively got more and more physical as both teams were in despiration mode down the stretch. Edward Little’s defense gave up just two shots on net in the second half as it buckled down against an urgent Vikings squad, who didn’t have quite enough in the tank. Despite the loss, head coach Matt Dieterich was pleased with what he saw from his promising squad.

“I thought we played with a lot of passion,” Dieterich said. “We came out and controlled probably more than half the game. I thought we created some dangerous chances, but we didn’t convert on some of our chances in the first half and that came back to bite us a little bit. … It’s hard to maintain that intensity for 80 minutes. It’s coming, we are a vastly improved team from last year.”

Oxford Hills’ Spencer Strong kicks the ball as Edward Little’s Badr Abdraba comes in as defense during Tuesday night’s soccer game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Oxford Hills’ Will Dieterich and Edward Little’s Jamaine Luizzo keep their eyes on the ball during Tuesday night’s soccer game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Edward Little’s Jamaine Luizzo and Oxford Hills’ Colby Ventresca keep their eyes on the ball during Tuesday afternoon’s soccer game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Oxford Hills’ Tommy Bancroft and Edward Little’s Christian Beliveau chase the ball during Tuesday’s first soccer game of the season in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Oxford Hills’ Shane Kubicek and Edward Little’s Christian Beliveau struggle for control of the ball during Tuesday afternoon’s soccer game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Edward Little’s Hassan Jibril and Oxford Hills’ Shane Kubicek stay on the ball during Tuesday afternoon’s soccer game in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)