LEWISTON, Maine — It was an all-Blue-Devils-on-deck sort of night for the Lewiston boys’ soccer team Wednesday.
With a second straight regional title on the line, and playing without one of its top players, Lewiston had to rally the troops to earn a return trip to the Class A state championship game.
“They really wanted to do this for [Abdulkarim Abdulle],” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “They stepped it up and filled the gaps the way they wanted to. They played inspired for him, and also for themselves, because they wanted to return back to the state final.”
Lewiston earned that return trip and won a second consecutive Class A North championship with a 4-0 win over Hampden Academy. The Blue Devils will face Scarborough at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the state final.
The Blue Devils were playing without Abdulle, an all-conference and all-regional midfielder after he was issued a red card in a regional semifinal win over Bangor and had to miss the regional final. Lewiston’s goal Wednesday was to play well enough without him and earn another game.
“I’m going to be so happy to see [Abdulle] back out on the field and doing what he does,” McGraw said. “He’s such a smooth and deceptively fast player sometimes. It will be great to see those guys play together one more time. For a coach, that’s going to be a nice thing to watch and be there to be part of.”
Senior Mohamed Abdisalan started in place of Abdulle in the midfield. He played poised and steady and did a nice job defending and moving the ball the other way. Meanwhile, Hassah Qeyle and Noralddin Othman filled in on the offensive side. Both had goals while Othman also had an assist.
“Abdisalan stepping in, he’s more of a poised, smooth and controlled player,” McGraw said. “He likes to drift back and be more defensive and opportunistic offensively. He takes the shot when he’s got it. Qeyle, he’s more of a dynamic, change of pace and direction type of player with a lot of control. Noralddin is somewhere in between. They really did a nice job filling in and playing different roles.”
Abdulle’s absence forced Lewiston into a more defensive position, but the Blue Devils’ potent offense still produced. In addition to Othman’s goal and assist, Abdi Shariff had a goal and two assists. Maslah Hassan had a goal and an assist. Lewiston now has 113 goals on the season.
The first two goals came with 4:44 left in the first half and 4:44 into the second half. That combination proved to be a backbreaker for the Broncos (13-4).
“You could say we were almost successful,” Hampden coach Josh Stevens said. “The goal was to try to get to halftime and if we’re level at 0-0, that could be a springboard for us and maybe build some momentum. We wanted to put them in a position that they’re not used to. That’s what it’s really all about — try to do something that makes them uncomfortable.”
Lewiston (17-0) outshot Hampden 11-2 in the first half but missed a number of good opportunities, including a post that Maslah Hassan hit 30 seconds into the game. With Abdi Shariff playing back in the middle, he attacked less, but Lewiston still produced a steady pressure.
Late in the opening half, Shariff sent the ball ahead and sprung Othman for an open look.
Lewiston poured it on in the second half, outshooting Hamden 16-0. A free kick by Shariff produced a rebound that was buried by Qeyle. That 2-0 lead was tough for the Broncos to overcome.
Lewiston added two more goals 3:28 apart. Maslah Hassan did a nifty tip of the ball toward a breaking Shariff for a goal with 26:58 left. Then Othman made a nice pass to Maslah Hassan for a goal with 23:30 left.