WESTBROOK—By their own admission, the Blazes fell behind the visiting Knights 2-0 on Thursday, Sept. 19 because they took to the field feeling overconfident:

“We had to dig our way out of a hole in this game,” said Westbrook senior Devin Cyr . “I think it’s because we underestimated them. They’re a good team this year. And we just took them lightly in the first half.”

Happily, the Blazes humbled themselves for the second half, doubled-down on the attack and clawed back to even-steven with Noble.

Mohamed Mohamed confers with Yahya Ataie prior to Altaie’s PK attempt. Adam Birt / American Journal

Even-steven is where things stuck: 2-2 in the end. The result bumped Westbrook to 2-0-2 on the season.

The Blazes pressured heavily throughout the game, so Noble’s jumping out front 2-0 came as a bit of a shock. The Knights went up 1-0 on a long feed just over eight minutes into the opening half; they added goal No. 2 – a direct kick that somehow spun in at the left Westbrook post – with 10:18 to play before the break. Gavin Mason earned both points.

“We were caught with a long-ball,” Westbrook head coach Vince Aceto said of the first Noble goal. “They long-balled and ran onto it. The first goal was good.”

“The second goal, weren’t supposed to be fouling in the defensive third, and unfortunately committed one,” Aceto said. “Then, had the post covered, and [Logan Orr, Blazes neminder] thought it was going to hit the post. I just told them at halftime, ‘That was a freak goal, unfortunate. Just get that out of your heads.’”

“Like I said: We took ‘em lightly,” Cyr said. “Coming from that big Scarborough win – that tie with Scarborough – we were all really confident. And Noble, we just took them lightly. We didn’t expect them to come out here with their physicality and their hard work and effort, just bringing it to us the entire game. We kind of got caught flat-footed; they got shots off and we just weren’t playing properly.”

“Noble is a great team,” said Westbrook senior Mohamed Mohamed. “They fought hard from beginning to end. First goal they had, we were being lazy on defense in the midfield, so they were able to get a shot off and that cost us. The second goal, we got a foul called on us. It was a low shot; we weren’t ready for it, and we got the own-goal.”

Devin Cyr controls an airborne ball. Adam Birt / American Journal

Westbrook did log chances, even during their messy uphill half. Yahya Altaie hashed one with 14:24 to go, a shot up the middle that leaping Noble keeper Jared Kinsey deflected just over the crossbar. And Ahmed Qasem churned up an opportunity in close with roughly six minutes remaining before the break. Kinsey pounced on that ball too, though, saving another notch.

The Blazes finally got on the board early in the second half: Jacob Thornton put the 2-1 tally past Kinsey, breathing new life into Westbrook’s evening. The Blazes recorded a few more solid shots in the next 20 minutes or so – Mohamed had one, a close call from maybe 35 yards out, near the right sideline. Westbrook eventually found the back of the net again when Altaie converted on a penalty kick: 2-2.

“At halftime, coach reminded us 2-0 is the most dangerous score in the game,” Mohamed said. “He motivated us, and we woke up. We started attacking more, moving the ball around and playing calm. The main thing in that comeback was we stayed calm and didn’t panic. Jacob helped start the comeback with his free kick…After [Yahya’s PK], we were able to pick up our heads and start playing our game.”

The Blazes piled up several further shots as time fell off the clock: Altaie added a couple, including one on a corner; Sebri Ahamed added one as well, redirecting a nice cross by Chris Hatch.

But neither Westbrook nor Noble could snap the deadlock, even through two OTs. Mason nearly won it for the Knights in OT1, smashing a header just wide, and Jackson Thayer nearly won it for the Blazes in OT2, tipping a Hatch header feed barely high. None of it worked, though.

2-2 the final.

Jacob Thornton drives with the ball. Adam Birt / American Journal

“We would’ve preferred a win,” Cyr said, “but a tie is definitely good. We will take a tie over a loss any day.”

Naturally, Aceto liked his boys’ second-half efforts better than their first-half efforts. Asked who played well, he said: “They stuck to the gameplan in the second half. So nobody stood out; they just combined to do the right thing.”

Asked what the Blazes’ gameplan had been, Aceto wryly pointed to not making the mistakes they’d made: “The gameplan was not to commit fouls in the defensive third or give up the long ball,” he said, chuckling.

Aceto elaborated a bit: “And the 50/50 balls out of the air, not marking when the ball’s getting thrown in,” he said. “Possession, getting the ball to space, going to Chris Hatch with it – they weren’t marking on the left side very well, so just pounding on the left side.”

Aceto nod to Orr’s contributions. “Credit to Logan,” Aceto said, “who’s just a freshman, and who’s taken it by the horns and just went with it, and he’s got a good group of seniors in front of him. He’s just really embraced it. And sometimes he looks like a freshman, but I’d probably have that fear in me too if I [saw guys coming at me] like that. I just love his attitude. He goes at it.”

Sebri Ahamed heads a ball in a crowd. Adam Birt / American Journal

The Blazes tied Scarborough 1-1 on Tuesday night, Sept. 17 – an important result for Westbrook, who’ve worked diligently to improve in recent years. Scarborough, of course, has long figured at or near the top of the Class A rankings.

“The Scarborough game was a great game,” Cyr said. “It was a great win, just getting a tie. It was amazing. Honestly, our goal in this week was just to get points out of every game: either the tie or the win. And that’s what we’ve got [today].”

“We’re off to a great start,” Aceto said of the Blazes’ two wins (vs. Biddeford and Sanford) and two ties. “[The boys] have been together since they were freshmen, so they’re used to each other and their ways on the field. Having that many seniors is great. I think that’s why: They’ve gelled so much together in four years, and we’ve kept them basically together. They’re playing nice right now.”

A baker’s dozen seniors pepper the Westbrook roster: Cyr, Mohamed, Qasem, Ahamed, Altaie, Mahamed Sharif, Dante Lingley, Vanecious Kai, Chris Irakoze, Jack Stone, Lucas Carrier, Yousif Al-Shuwali and Shawal Shuab. Irakoze and Cyr captain the squad.

“No losses, we’re really excited about that, coming from our three wins from last year,” Cyr said, asked how the team feels about where they’re at. “We’ve already got two wins under our belt and two ties. It’s definitely looking like a better season than last year – which is what we’re all excited about.”

Chris Hatch heads a ball. Adam Birt / American Journal

“We’re looking to make it further in the playoffs,” Cyr said, “maybe get, like, a top-six seed or even higher, is what we’re hoping for. That’s our ideal goal: We don’t want to be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs like we had been for the past two years.”

Just then, some of Cyr’s teammates, standing by and listening, chimed in with “States!”

“Obviously, States – everyone’s goal is States,” Cyr said with a laugh. “We’ve got steps to get there, though. We’ve got to work our way there.”

Westbrook hosted Portland – their third towering opponent in a week – on Saturday the 21st, suffering a 1-0 loss, their first of the autumn.

Jackson Thayer watches and waits on a potential pass. Adam Birt / American Journal

Dante Lingley goes shoulder-to-shoulder with a Knight. Adam Birt / American Journal

Matt Weymouth chases the action out front of the Noble net. Adam Birt / American Journal

Yahya Altaie takes his PK. Adam Birt / American Journal

Devin Cyr pushes forward for the Blazes. Adam Birt / American Journal

Yahya Altaie chases a runaway ball. Adam Birt / American Journal

Mohamed Mohamed (“Momo”) heads a ball for Westbrook. Adam Birt / American Journal

Jacob Thornton added Westbrook’s first goal. Adam Birt / American Journal

Chris Hatch drives upfield. Adam Birt / American Journal

Yahya Altaie outpaces a Noble opponent. Adam Birt / American Journal

Medad Zahinda races a Knight. Adam Birt / American Journal

Sabri Lomomi squares up. Adam Birt / American Journal

Mohamed Mohamed gets air, trying to escape a Knight and take possession of the ball. Adam Birt / American Journal

Ahmed Qasem possesses for Westbrook. Adam Birt / American Journal

Jackson Thayer goes up after an airball. Adam Birt / American Journal

Dante Lingley heads the ball for Westbrook. Adam Birt / American Journal

Sebri Ahamed escapes a would-be Noble tackler. Adam Birt / American Journal

Chris Irakoze – sandwiched between Noble opponents – leaps up in pursuit of a header. Adam Birt / American Journal

 

Chris Irakoze controls near midfield. Adam Birt / American Journal

Shawwal Shueyb clashes with a Knight. Adam Birt / American Journal

Comments are not available on this story.