CHATHAM, NJ – Brian Graham noticed it on the bus ride over to Berkeley Heights for Chatham’s second-round state tournament soccer game against Gov. Livingston on Friday.
“I don’t think I heard a word the whole ride,” Graham said. “That showed me we were focused on what we had to do. As the No. 12 seed, not much is expected of you. We’re a team with something to prove.”
No one on the Chatham team has displayed that quiet determination like Graham, who has been the force behind the Cougars’ tournament run, which defeated Morristown, 1-0, on Tuesday to advance to th North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 championship game.
Graham's two goals on Friday in a 2-1 victory over Morris Hills earned Chatham the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state championship.
Chatham (13-6-2) meets Northern Highlands (18-2-2) in the Group 3 state semifinals, 7:30 Tuesday, Nov. 19 at Millburn High.
In state tournament victories over Newark East Side (3-1 score) and Gov. Livingston (4-0), the 6-1, 183-pound Graham scored five of Chatham’s seven goals and also earned credit for an assist. He leads the team with 17 goals and has four assists. He raised his state tournament total to seven goals and an assist in four state tournament games by netting both goals in the sectional final on Friday.
The junior is the TAP Chatham Athlete of the Week.
Graham let’s his play do the talking since it isn’t likely to see him shouting or showing much emotion on the field. Despite scoring three goals and passing for an assist against Berkeley Heights, Graham blended into the background until he made his moves to the goal.
“I just try and stay as calm as I can on the field,” Graham said. “I don’t like to convey my emotions or give the opposition an idea of what I’m thinking.”
Graham has helped Chatham (12-6-2) win seven of its last eight games. In the Gov. Livingston game, he scored the first goal, set up Pat Fuller for the second goal and then scored twice in a span of 71 seconds during the second half to clinch it.
“It’s rewarding to work so hard in practice and get the results,” Graham said. “I’m not the only one working hard. A perfect example is Pat Fuller. There was a hard tackle early in the game and he went at it full speed. You knew at that moment it gave us an edge. We’re starting to realize how important those individual battles are in a game.”