Lewiston soccer players celebrate their 1-0 victory over Mt. Ararat in Lewiston Wednesday night to advance to Saturday’s state championship game. From left to right are Ahmed Abadir, Suab Nur and Abdirahman Daud. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — For still-unbeaten Lewiston, practice made perfect.

Joel Musese worked on penalty kicks before and after practice, and when his name was called to take one Wednesday, he converted.

Blue Devils keeper Dido Lumu put in extra work this week preparing for Mt. Ararat, and he stopped all 12 shots the Eagles sent his way.

No one had worked the defending Class A state champions so hard all season, but the top-seeded Blue Devils’ extra work paid off for a 1-0 victory in the Class A North regional final at Don Roux Field.

“We gave them everything they had, you know?” Mt. Ararat coach Jack Rioux said. “One call, they scored, it happens, you know? We did our best, we had a chance at the end. You know, soccer gods weren’t on our side today.”

The No. 2 Eagles (13-3-1) had one last chance to tie the game, earning a free kick from 27 yards out with five seconds left. The kick was tapped to senior striker Travis Nadeau, whose low strike sent Lumu diving for the game-winning save.

“I had it. I had it. I think I had it,” Lumu said. “You know, the ball kind of went under my arms but I made sure I brought it back to me.”

Lumu said he knew the final shot was going to be taken by Nadeau, who he called the best player for Mt. Ararat.

“I didn’t care what the other players did — jump over, move around — I knew Travis was going to kick it, so I kept my eyes on him when he left,” Lumu said. “When he kicked the ball, I ran all out, all out.”

The Eagles went all out at the start of the game, and Lewiston (15-0-2) coach Mike McGraw knew that would happen.

“What I told the players beginning of the game is, ‘We’re going to have to weather the first 10 or 15 minutes,’ but it was more like 20 or 22 minutes, where we finally got a chance to breathe,” McGraw said.

Nadeau had the game’s first shot on goal less than seven minutes in, and the Eagles put three more on Lumu in the first 20-plus minutes. The Blue Devils didn’t get their first shot on target until seven minutes later, but Suab Nur’s try was gobbled up by Mt. Ararat goalie James Singleton.

“You know, from reading the articles about them early on in playoffs, they had trouble in the first half. It seemed like they were slow-starting. So we wanted to try to get one early, capitalize on them early, make them chase the game a little bit,” Rioux said.

An adjustment at halftime by the Devils forced the Eagles to chase a little bit.

“At halftime, all we asked the kids to do was if we control the pass, control the triangles, and then look to switch it,” McGraw said. “And when we switched it and Suab got that run, he created that PK because he was going and the guy had no other alternative but to take him down. And then Joel’s hit — perfect.”

The penalty shot came just 1:47 into the second half, and the Blue Devils on the field sent Musese into the box, as opposed to junior star Bilal Hersi.

“(Singleton) has seen Bilal four times. And so apparently they made the decision that they were going to give it to Joel,” McGraw said. “The keeper had to see somebody different.”

“Yeah, I was nervous,” Musese said. “My whole team was depending on me. And I knew I had to deliver the ball.”

“I was thinking that if I look to the left, the goalie will go there,” Musese continued. “So I kept on looking to the left, and what happened was he went there, and I kicked it to the right.”

The kick went right into the back of the net, and gave the Blue Devils the only goal they needed. It didn’t matter that the Eagles outshot them on-target 12-5. The Lewiston defense, which McGraw called “strong,” kept Nadeau and the Mt. Ararat attack in check, and Lumu kept the net clean in one of his most active games of the season.

“It was by far the toughest game all season,” McGraw said.

Now the Blue Devils advance to the state final, where they will play the South region’s No. 1 Gorham. Lewiston will be looking for its third title in four years.

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Mt Ararat’s Nate Taylor, left and Lewiston’s Hussein Hassan battle for the ball during Wednesday’s championship game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Mt Ararat’s Mason Brigham, left and Lewiston’s Abdilahi Abdi battle for the ball during Wednesday’s championship game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Mt. Ararat’s Max Spelke, left and Lewiston’s Jama Abdullahi get tangled up going for the ball during Wednesday’s championship game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Lewiston’s Suab Nur gets a knee to the head by Mt. Ararat’s Kody Noyes that led to a penalty kick during the first half of Wednesday’s championship game in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Lewiston’s Joel Musese, left and Suab Nur celebrate Musese’s goal in the first half of Wednesday’s game that was the only scored in the game as Lewiston advances to Saturday’s starte championship game after defeating Mt. Ararat 1-0 in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)


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