AUBURN — Edward Little’s Jarod Norcross Plourde had never felt what it was like to beat rival Lewiston in a high school boys’ soccer game. Heck, he had never even felt what it was like to score against his team’s rival.
In his final game against the Blue Devils, he felt both. Norcross Plourde scored a hat trick and the Red Eddies beat Lewiston 3-2 on Wednesday.
“This was the game,” Norcross Plourde said. “I haven’t beat them my whole career, so this was the game to win, and we won.”
The Red Eddies (9-2-1) did it the hard way. They found themselves down 2-0 by the midway point of the first half. Ridwan Ali looped a direct kick from the left side over the head of EL goalie Owen Mower 13 minutes in, then Benjamin Musese hit one from 30 yards away less than five minutes later, and that one caught Mower by surprise.
“One of the biggest troubles I’ve had this season is getting out to balls that are farther away from the goal,” Mower said. “I was trying to be confident in getting out to those balls, and then I started towards them thinking they were going to be played away from goal. And then when they came back on me towards goal; it caught me by surprise.”
“Today things went pretty much as bad they could for the first 20 minutes,” EL coach Tim Mains said. “I thought we out-played them the first 20 minutes, and yet we were down 2-0.”
Mains said his team hasn’t always dealt with adversity well. In a game against Messalonskee, he said it felt like a “switch went off” and his team crumbled. In the first meeting with Lewiston (10-2), the Blue Devils’ first goal quickly led to two more in a 3-0 loss.
But something was different in Wednesday’s game.
“They stuck together, what we’ve been preaching all year long,” Mains said. “They supported each other, and we were able to get one and get some momentum.”
Norcross Plourde began to right his team’s ship 21 minutes in. He intercepted a Lewiston clear attempt and found the ball at his feet in the box. He quickly put a shot past goalie Alex Rivet.
When Tyler Morin was taken down in the box with just over two minutes left in the first half, it was Norcross Plourde’s number that Mains called. The senior striker confidently put it to the right of Rivet, and the game was tied, but in EL’s favor.
“That second goal was huge,” Mains said. “We’ve been tied at halftime with Lewiston before. In our first game we were tied at half. This time it was way different because we had seized all the momentum away from them. So to get that second goal before halftime was huge because we went into halftime energized.”
The halftime break was spent trying to energize Mower, who said he had things swirling through his mind in the first half, and he was afraid to screw up.
“I was looking kind of down, trying to fill my water bottle up,” Mower said, “and coach took me aside from the team and he said, ‘Owen, you’re our keeper. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you through the season. You kept us in a bunch of games, keep us in this one, and we can take it home.’ And that got me fired up.”
The Blue Devils came out of the gates flying to start the second half. They began to put more shots on Mower, but the senior keeper was up for the challenge. And he got some help from his defense, namely Spencer Frahn on two defensive saves.
“Second half, we adjusted and we had some great chances, and just didn’t finish,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “Mower cam up with some big saves. And unlucky for us.”
McGraw said it took his team a half to adjust to the hard ground on EL’s home field. A team that likes to play settled balls spent too much time waiting for them to stop bouncing. Meanwhile, EL defenders swooped in to stop the play.
“You got to give EL credit. They ran to the ball. They ran through it if they had to,” McGraw said. “We’re pretty good when we settle the ball, and they didn’t let us.”
The game was still tied as the clock was ticking toward the final 10 minutes of regulation. Then the Red Eddies were awarded a direct kick just inside their offensive end. Alex Thompson took the kick, and Norcross Plourde ended up with it before putting a shot on Rivet, who couldn’t get a solid grasp on the ball and it trickled in.
“I turned around and I didn’t think I scored because he put a hand on it,” Norcross Plourde said. “I thought he saved it, but then everybody said ‘hatty’ so I guess I scored.
“I haven’t scored a goal against them my whole career, so it’s kind of surreal to score three goals now the last game we play them.”
The Blue Devils applied heavy pressure from there on out. Mwesa Mulonda, Musese and Muktar Ali all put hard shots over the crossbar. Norcross Plourde said they were just trying to hang on, and the Red Eddies “somehow did.”
“We actually dominated the territory, but couldn’t put it in,” McGraw said. “That’s the way the game is. Sometimes the game is called beautiful, and sometimes it can be cruel.”
Mains said there’s no time to celebrate the rare victory. The Red Eddies have games against Brewer on Friday and Oxford Hills next Monday that they need to win in order to secure a top-two spot in Class A North.
The Blue Devils have some work to do to get to the same spot, but do have games against current playoff teams Hampden and Bangor left on their schedule.