LEWISTON — Abdibaari Hersi wanted a shot.
The Lewiston junior midfielder didn’t want penalty kicks and he didn’t want to see Hampden Academy get its try in overtime Saturday night. So Hersi zigged one way and zagged another until he found his shot.
“I saw the opening to the goal,” Hersi said. “I was like ‘This is your chance to score.’ I just took the shot and put it in.”
Hersi’s goal with 8:22 left in the second overtime lifted Lewiston to a thrilling 3-2 win over the Broncos in their Eastern Class A boys’ soccer semifinal at Don Roux Field.
“It was the greatest feeling of my life,” said Hersi. “I just saw the ball go in and my heart soared. “
Lewiston advances to the regional final to face top-ranked Mount Ararat next Wednesday. The time is yet to be determined.
“It was a phenomenally courageous effort for both teams, but we came out in the end,” said Lewiston coach Mike McGraw, whose team tied Hampden 0-0 in the regular season. “It was going to take one break. Oh my God, when Abdibaari took that shot, it was a blessing. Finally, one of the shots we took went true.”
The Lewiston win avenged a heartbreaking loss to Hampden in the semifinals last year.
Like last fall, the Blue Devils (13-1-2) built an early lead. Lewiston went up 2-0 only to watch the Broncos (9-2-5) rally to tie it.
“Every player on the team remembers what happened last year,” said Hersi. “We were trying to make them go back with a loss this time and not a win.”
Both teams had great chances in the second half and overtime. It was a quick transition to Lewiston’s offense that led to the game-winner. Lucas Schulze won the ball in the midfield and moved it ahead, where Hersi took it from there.
“One player came at me, I tried to avoid him,” said Hersi. “Another player came. Every shot I had taken before was just deflections. So I took a better touch so I could get a good shot off. I just hit it and it went somewhere great.”
Lewiston was able to finish early and often after a stellar start. Abdi Shariff-Hassan sent the ball ahead for Mohamed Ali. He got in behind the defense to bury a shot just 2:25 into the game.
Then with 21:34 left, Lewiston made it 2-0. Yusuf Yama set up Shariff-Hassan down the left side for a blast.
“We’re very capable of doing that,” said McGraw of Lewiston’s early play.
The Blue Devils lost their edge late in the first half. As a result, Lewiston watched Hampden tie the game with a pair of goals in the final 4:31.
Some showboating by Lewiston cost them possession in the midfield, that enabled Hampden to send the ball the other way. That turned into an Ian Miller goal off a free kick.
Then with 58 seconds left in the half, Dan Good beat a defender on the left side for the equalizer.
“We made some bad decisions that cost us that first goal,” said McGraw. “All that did was encourage Hampden. Just like last year, they sensed, they saw and they took.”
Lewiston was reeling after the sudden turning of the tide. The Blue Devils had to regroup and re-establish their game.
“What I liked about these guys is they showed some resiliency,” said McGraw. “They showed they could come back.”
Yama and Ali both had bids in the second half that were saved by Hampden keeper Zach Gilpin, who finished with 13 saves.
Hampden had a great bid when Tristan Gardner’s cross was headed by Good. Lewiston goalie Eric Soucy made that stop. Gardner also had a chance off some nice passing by Good and Ben Foster but couldn’t finish.
“It kind of brought back memories from last year,” said Hersi. “We were trying to avoid that happening, and we did. We just talked about it and told everyone to play the game like we played the first 30 minutes. It worked. We started playing the ball on the ground.”
In the first overtime, Good had a pair of tries, including one on which the Broncos fought for a foul call but didn’t get it. Lewiston’s best bid came on a high shot by Abdullahi Shaleh on which Gilpin made an outstanding leaping save.
“Our kids did a tremendous job,” said McGraw. “Hampden’s got some quality kids. You’ve got to give them credit. I’m very happy with the win. We allowed them back in, and they gave us everything that they could.”