Soccer player

Garrett Boucher from Croatan is the region’s Defensive Player of the Year

It’s not often when a soccer player goes from breaking his school’s scoring record in one season to becoming the region’s top defenseman.

But that’s what happened to Garrett Boucher from Croatan.

His 24 sophomore goals in 2019 were the most scored in a season – a mark broken a season later by Travis Garner-McGraw. But trying to solidify his bottom line, coach Paul Slater asked Boucher to switch to defense.

“I was like ‘Hey Garrett, this is the best for the team’ and he was like ‘Okay, coach, let’s go’,” said the coach of Croatan, Paul Slater. “He never had a grudge about it and I didn’t have to convince him.”

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The move paid off as Boucher became an All-State Defender twice and was a key cog for the Cougars winning a state title last season.

Now a senior, Boucher can add another achievement to his name as he is The Daily News Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021 season. He was a clear choice for the award as voted on by the coaches and athletic staff of the newspaper.

“Honestly, anything I can do to help the team win, I will,” said Boucher.

Boucher, who is 6-foot-4, said physically the change in position was not difficult as he served as the defensive center-back for his club team.

Croatan's Garrett Boucher heads for the sideline in a game earlier this season.

But it can be difficult to ask someone who is used to scoring to sacrifice that aspect of their game in order to take on more responsibility behind the scenes.

Not Boucher, Slater said.

“When we brought Garrett to college, we spoke of him as a kid with the right character who wants to get it right,” Slater said. “He embodies that going from ‘Hey, I just broke the school record,’ to playing center. We had no problems.”

As a junior, Boucher still had 15 goals and four assists, but was the leader of a defense that recorded 10 shutouts as the Cougars finished 18-0 and won the 2-A state title in March.

As a senior this fall, Boucher spearheaded a defense that recorded 13 shutouts, including 11 consecutive shutouts from September 30 to November 8, with 10 goals and six assists.

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His efforts helped Croatan secure an overall standings of 18-3-1, 10-0 in the Coastal 3-A conference and advance to the semi-final of the NCHSAA East Regional. Boucher is also part of the entire zone for a third consecutive season.

“Our back line was so solid this season,” said Boucher. “We all played together and knew what everyone could do.”

Boucher said his main job at the back was to use his tall stature to win balls in the air. His aim was to not let either of them touch the ground, but to win them over with his body, then clear the ball or keep it on his own to help start the attack.

Croatan's Garrett Boucher is looking to pass the ball during a game in Swansboro earlier this season.

“Visually its size created some security for us and from the point of view of the other teams it made it harder to score,” said Slater. “But more than that, Garrett had the ability to improve others around him.”

Chris Miller can be contacted by email at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jdnsports.