Lewiston goalkeeper Yahya Heri protects the net during Tuesday’s game against Brunswick in Bath. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

BATH — Yahya Heri couldn’t have imagined earlier this season that he would be playing in a regional championship game for the Lewiston boys soccer team.

Yet in the Blue Devils’ biggest game of the season, there Heri was, manning the Lewiston goal against Brunswick in what turned out to be a 3-1 Blue Devils victory at McMann Field.

Heri’s heroics played a big part in Lewiston winning the Class A North title for the third year in a row.

“For me, I didn’t think I would be the varsity goalie because I was playing for JV,” the junior keeper said.

When the opportunity arose for Heri to get varsity playing time, he said teammates told him, “You need to practice and to work hard so much.

“And I say, ‘OK, I will work so hard,'” Heri said.

“He’s done a great job with the goalkeeper coach, Per (Henrickson), and he’s just progressed all through the season,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said.

Heri wasn’t in goal when Lewiston played Brunswick during the regular season. Instead, classmate Michael Belleau got the call in that contest, which was the Dragons’ only loss of the season prior to Tuesday night. But Heri was called upon in the rematch, as he was for the first two Lewiston playoff games.

Heri said he was nervous to start, “but when we scored that first goal, I was feeling happy and I said, ‘Oh, my team and me, we can do this.'”

Heri’s task was to help keep the Blue Devils in the lead, and McGraw said, “he did what he was supposed to do.”

Heri only had to make five saves for the victory, but they all seemed to be big ones.

“He played fantastic,” Brunswick coach Mark Roma said. “You want your keeper to make a couple big saves a half to keep you in, and he did, but I still think there were opportunities that we squandered. We certainly could have got one by him, but we just weren’t able to. I think that’s really what set the tone.”

A couple of the Dragons’ shots seemed destined to be goals before Heri stuffed them with diving saves.

“I like to dive with the ball,” Heri said. “And I say, ‘OK, I will do it. I will not let my team down.'”

McGraw said the save that stuck out to him the most was a point-blank stop Heri made on a Lane Foushee header with less than four minutes to play.

Lewiston goalkeeper Yahya Heri blocks a shot during Tuesday’s Class A North regional final against Brunswick in Bath. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“The last one, with the header that he knocked up into the air, was a spectacular save,” McGraw said.

Heri said he wasn’t sure he would make that stop.

“I just guessed the ball, and see it,” he said. “I just guessed the ball. And I saw the ball go into the air and I was happy.”

The Dragons did get one by Heri a minute later, but not before he turned away a Sebastien Matheus-Miguel direct kick from 20 yards out. Brunswick eventually scored on the play when the ball wasn’t cleared from the far side and Heri couldn’t make the rebound save through traffic.

But losing a shutout didn’t dampen Heri’s mood after the game. It also didn’t affect his confidence going into Saturday’s state final against Falmouth at Hampden Academy.

“On Saturday, I will not be nervous,” he said. “I will be so happy and I’ll be so strong, and I will work as hard as I do.”

That confidence has trickled out of the goal mouth of late, according to McGraw.

“What he’s been is a solidifying factor out back, and the kids have found that they have confidence,” McGraw said. “And when they have confidence with him … they’re not going to be worried as much, so that allows them to play a little bit more free-minded.”


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