Lewiston High School’s Enock Citenga, right, and Mt. Ararat’s Max Spelke jostle for the ball during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park in September 2017. (Sun Journal File Photo)

No team has been a thorn in the side of defending Class A boys’ soccer state champion Lewiston this year like Mt. Ararat.

The Eagles were one of two teams to play the unbeaten Blue Devils to a draw, and later bested them in the exhibition KVAC championship game — with both results coming on Lewiston’s home turf.

Add in an early-season loss to Lewiston by just one goal, and a 1-0 victory in October 2017 that marks the last countable game the Blue Devils lost, and No. 2 Mt. Ararat (13-2-1) enters Wednesday’s Class A North regional final against No. 1 Lewiston (14-0-2) looking to burst the Blue Devils’ repeat bubble.

The key for the Eagles’ competitiveness with the Blue Devils, according to Mt. Ararat head coach Jack Rioux, has been defense.

“We’ve prided ourselves on defense,” Rioux said. “We know Lewiston is a very good team, and we got to bring the effort on defense.”

The Blue Devils have totaled just four goals in three games against the Eagles this season — a 2-1 road win, 1-1 home draw, and a loss in penalty kicks in the KVAC title game after the score was tied 1-1 at the end of overtime. That’s a notably stingy defensive effort against a Lewiston team that scored four or more goals seven times during the regular season, and five goals in the quarterfinals.

“They play very hard, and so they limit the time that we have to execute some of the things that we would like to do, and I think that’s a great tactic to use with us. Plus the physicality is important,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “But I think, you know, Mt. Blue was pretty physical (in the semifinals), too, so we were able to come through that, so I’m pretty hopeful.”

If the Blue Devils want to return to the state final, they’ll have to get past an Eagles team full of returning players. There are 13 seniors, including six that Rioux said have been with him since he took over the program three years ago.

“They have bought into the philosophy of just working hard and doing everything together as a team, and it’s paid off this year,” Rioux said.

Junior goalie James Singleton has also been a crucial for Mt. Ararat, and he will have to have a big game against Lewiston, according to Rioux.

“They have so many weapons,” Rioux said. “They have guys that play in the back for them that could start playing up top on many other teams. Every player on the field is dangerous for them.”

The Blue Devils proved that in the semifinal win over Mt. Blue when defender Mardoche Kikobo scored one of the two goals.

The biggest danger for Lewiston’s defense is Eagles senior striker Travis Nadeau, who scored double-digit goals this season, including one in each of the regular-season meetings. McGraw also pointed to senior midfielder Max Spelke as an important player for Mt. Ararat.

Through three games against the Blue Devils — with improving results each time — the biggest key for the Eagles has been confidence.

“We learned that we can play with them,” Rioux said. “We definitely thought we had the talent and the skill to be able to do it.”

That the two most recent meetings have been on Lewiston’s new home turf has meant even more for a Mt. Ararat team that plays its home games on grass. And that the KVAC title game went to overtime and PKs was the best possible postseason scrimmage Rioux could imagine.

McGraw said he’s glad the test of overtime and penalty kicks came in an exhibition, with his team able to keep its season alive after coming out on the losing end.

There won’t be a next game for Wednesday’s losing team. Like the Eagles, McGraw said his players enter the game “fairly confident.”

“They know that if they play the way they’re capable of playing, we should come out with a win,” McGraw said.

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Lewiston High School’s Bilal Hersi (10) fires the ball past Mt. Ararat midfielder Max Spelke and into the net for the Blue Devils’ third goal during their game at Lewiston Athletic Park in September 2017. (Sun Journal File Photo)