Bilal Hersi from Lewiston is the 2018 Sun Journal boys’ soccer player of the year. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

When Bilal Hersi is a on a soccer field it’s rare that anything he does can be called discreet.

The Lewiston junior makes his presence known, and he’s the No. 1 priority for opposing defenses.

Yet maybe his most important play of the season season happened so quickly and delicately that he barely seemed to be part of the Blue Devils’ biggest goal of the season.

But the goal, and quite possibly a second straight state championship, doesn’t happen if not for Hersi. And that was only one of many key plays he made throughout the season.

That importance — and the statistics and the success that came with it — are what makes Hersi the 2018 Sun Journal All-Region Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year.

“His scoring is a trademark for him, but it is his assists in championship matches that have lead to game-winning goals from teammates that have been incredibly impressive,” Lewiston boys’ coach Mike McGraw said.

Hersi had the game-winning assist in last year’s Class A North final. His giving touch went one step further this year, providing the final pass to Suab Nur, who scored the lone goal in Lewiston’s Class A state championship win.

From the sideline, in real time, it wasn’t completely obvious that Hersi even touched the ball at all, after Jama Abdullahi sent the ball from left to right. But the sure-footed Hersi moved the ball just enough with his foot to get it to Nur in scoring position.

Hersi knew what he was doing the whole time.

“I know I get a lot of attention, which what happened. Suab was all by himself and I just flicked it — I just, literally, I flicked it just so I can get attention from the three, four players so I could like get him free, and thank God he made that shot,” Hersi said. “It was an amazing shot, too.”

Hersi had his fair share of assists during the season, but he’s made a name for himself during his high-school career with his scoring ability. This year was his best yet, with a team-leading 22 goals.

“I usually put a lot of pressure on myself (to score),” said Hersi, who lamented a dry spell late in the season. “I put a lot of good pressure — not like really bad pressure, I just put good pressure on me to deliver for my team always.”

There was also pressure from opposing defenses, who always made sure to man-mark Hersi, who split time at forward and midfield. Hersi said that attention affected him early in the season, especially with the Blue Devils’ chemistry on offense not quite where it needed to be, but he learned how to handle it, and part of that was by moving around the formation.

“In the beginning, it was a bit tough. I kind of let it get to me. And then I just said forget about it. I was like, ‘Whatever happens, whatever happens. I’m going to do everything for my team from now on. It’s not really about me anymore,’” Hersi said. “It was never about me, but it was not about me. I would do everything for the team. Whoever scores, scores. Whoever saves a shot, saves a shot. I’m just going to work hard for the team. I’m just going to move around everywhere and just work hard, honestly.”

That hard work was needed most in the final game of the season, when “everything was on the line,” according to Hersi, who moved around the field all game, but was where he needed to be and did what he needed to do when it mattered most. And he delivered.

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Lewiston’s Bilal Hersi (10) fires the ball past Mt. Ararat’s Max Spelke and into the net for a goal at Lewiston Athletic Park in September 2018. (Sun Journal file photo)


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