January 8, 2013 10:16:23 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Graham McCain has had his share of "those days."
In soccer, the "unlucky" moments that don't lead to goals often mirror the number of times players in other sports fall short of their objective.
Last week, McCain found a way to restore a little balance in the soccer universe, scoring six goals in a victory against Magnolia Heights in Senatobia.
For his accomplishment, McCain is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"Overall, the day was just a great day," McCain said.
While the effort marked the first time McCain has scored six goals in a high school game, he said he also has scored six goals or more in a youth game in the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority league. He played on his first team when he was 5 years old in Columbus. He then moved to Starkville and played on a Under-14 Challenge team and on a U-15 team before stepping away from travel soccer.
McCain also has spent the past two years as a kicker on the Heritage Academy football team. This season, the Patriots won the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA state title. He said his training and practice time kicking strengthened his leg and helped prepare him for the soccer season.
McCain started the game at center midfield and moved to striker in the first half. He scored his first goal on a one-vs.-one opportunity in the first half before breaking out in the second half for a hat trick and then some.
McCain, a 5-foot-8, 130-pounder, credited teammates Zach Asadi and Caleb Gurley for assisting on two of his goals. He said he didn't remember if there were assists on his fourth and fifth goals. He also acknowledged the need for a little luck when scoring as many goals as he did last week.
"I think it definitely is a big accomplishment, but I don't think it really affects down the line," McCain said. "It helps my confidence, but I don't think it will affect the other games as much. I still want to help my teammates score as much as I want to score."
Heritage Academy coach Joe Asadi said he spoke with McCain prior to the match and encouraged his junior forward/midfielder to relax. He said he had a feeling McCain could have an impact on the match if he took his time and didn't press to score goals. He had no idea things would come together as well as they did.
"The first half he still was kind of tense," Asadi said. "In the second half, no one could stop him. He could do anything he wanted at any moment."
Asadi said he moved McCain back after the Patriots had built a comfortable lead in an attempt to allow younger players a chance to play up top. On this day, though, McCain seemed destined to score. Not only did he score from distance, but he also cleaned up a loose ball after the goalkeeper stopped a shot by Matt Sykes and Sykes collided with the goalkeeper.
McCain said he typically is involved in the play, either setting up teammates or creating scoring chances, so he doesn't score a lot of his goals by being in the right place at the right time. Goal scorers will tell you, though, it is just as important to be lucky and to get good bounces when you're shooting or attacking as it is have a nose for the goal.
"Normally, I like to play out wide to my teammates and get a shot at the top of the 18, but if I think I can beat someone one on one, I like to do that and dribble in and have a shot closer, if possible," McCain said. "But most of my shots are from distance at the top of the 18."
Asadi feels McCain has a wide range of skills that helps him reap the benefits when everything falls into place like it did at Senatobia.
"He is a good player," Asadi said. "He is fully skilled. He knows what it takes, he knows the game, he has the heart. He is perfect."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.