CHATHAM, NJ - The heat was stifling on the turf at Cougar Field for the Chatham boys soccer opener. But no one player was hotter than Brian Graham.
The Chatham junior forward set up the first goal of the game by Jared Wood and then knocked in three goals for a hat trick that propelled the Cougars to a 4-0 victory over Parsippany Hills on Wednesday.
David Gill sparked the play that led to the first goal when he took the ball on the left wing and carried it across the midfield before feeding the ball to Graham. The junior forward then sent the ball to a wide-open Wood, who finished his chance from six yards out.
Graham made it 2-0 before the break because of a heads-up play by Brian Fox. Chatham had a throw-in and Fox made a quick throw to Graham for a break that put him one-on-one with the Parsippany Hills goalkeeper. Graham put his chance away for the start of his hat trick.
"I had one (hat trick) last year versus Morristown," Graham said. "One was from a great throw-in by Brian Fox and another was a good pass from Miles Michell in the second half.
"On my third goal, David Gill could easily have shot the ball, but he laid it off to me. We have a very unselfish team this year."
Goalie Henry Stusnick only needed to make one save for Chatham because he was so ably protected by the Cougar defense, led by center backs P.J. DiBenedetto and Andy Milone. Outside backs Patrick Fuller and Greg Mah solidified that back four.
"It always starts in the back for us and they did a really good job," Graham said. "The midfield held its own. It was a pretty good day for everyone."
The Chatham midfield feataured David DePasquale, Michael Barber and Fox, along with Matt Toolajian and Graham Delaney.
"Our possession was decent in parts of the field," Chatham coach Mark Maka said. "Our back row was solid, it's always nice to get a clean sheet, that's one of our goals."