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

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

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

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

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

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The move paid off as Boucher emerged as an all-state defenseman twice and was a key cog in 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 pick for the award voted on by the newspaper’s coaches and athletic staff.

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

Boucher, who is 6ft 4in, said physically the change in position was not difficult as he played as a defensive centre-back for his club side.

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

But it can be hard to ask someone used to scoring goals to sacrifice that aspect of their game to take on more behind-the-scenes responsibility.

Not Boucher, Slater said.

“When we brought Garrett to college, we said he was a kid with good character who wants to do things right,” Slater said. “He embodies that by going from ‘Hey, I just broke the school record’ to playing as a centre-back. 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 clean sheets from Sept. 30 to Nov. 8, to go along with 10 goals and six assists.

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His efforts helped Croatan go 18-3-1 overall, 10-0 in the Coastal 3-A Conference and advance to the NCHSAA East Regional Semifinals. Boucher is also versatile for a third straight season.

“Our backline was so strong this season,” Boucher said. “We all played together and we knew what everyone could do.”

Boucher said his main job at fullback was to use his big frame to win balls through the air. His aim was not to let any of them touch the ground, but to win them over with his body and then clear the ball or keep it himself to help start the attack.

Croatan's Garrett Boucher looks to pass the ball during a game at Swansboro earlier this season.

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

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