THE STOPPER: Usually a strong, physical player, he often marks the opponent's most dangerous striker.
Casey Peterson isn't a goal-scorer or a shot-saver, a statistical standout or the star of his team, but the Northbridge High junior played a major role in helping the Rams to the Central Mass. Tournament last fall. His position, the stopper, is arduous rather than glamorous, but he likes it that way.
"I'm not a player who likes to grab all the attention or score all the goals," Peterson said. "It's a very challenging position because you feel like everything's revolving in the middle of the field and there's no time to relax. But I enjoy it because I can play with the center midfielder and the sweeper, and we kind of control the game together."
The stopper is a center fullback, usually a strong, physical player who is effective at preventing attacks up the center and often marks the opponent's most dangerous striker. Not all teams use a stopper. Some teams use two. Teams utilize the position differently. Some, like Tantasqua, allow its stopper to make runs offensively.
Peterson, too, has had some opportunities on offense and scored the tying goal in Northbridge's CMass tourney game against Valley Tech last year.
"To play the stopper position, you need to be a player who can tactically read the game both offensively and defensively," Tantasqua coach Steve Khoury said. "He has to possess good technical skills as he gets involved in changing fields and keeping possession for his team. We played a lot through our stopper. The stopper must also be good in the air winning headers, and be able to bump over to pick up players left open when the defense has to adjust."
Coaches agree that stopper is a difficult position to play.
"You have to be the first line of defense," Bartlett coach Ryan Renauld said, "and if you leave the middle of the field and can't make the play on the ball you're attempting to make, the defense instantly breaks down. You can give outside fullbacks and the goalie and the sweeper all the credit in the world, but a lot of times it's the stopper that's forcing (the opponent) a little bit right or a little bit left and not getting the shot that he wanted or not getting a clear shot. It's an unsung position."
Peterson is the Rams' stopper for the third year.
"He is a very skilled player," Northbridge coach Tom Douville said. "He distributes and protects the ball very well. Casey is a very smart and unselfish player. He is very cool under pressure and always gives you 110 percent."
He had been mostly playing back on defense in that 2006 CMass tourney game against Valley Tech, but late in the 4-3 loss, seized a chance on offense and responded with his first career goal.
"You have to realize when they need you on offense," Peterson said.
The senior, who has played the position for three years, functions as a defensive midfielder.
"I want him to get up as an extra attacker on offense," coach Ryan Renauld said, "but he has to be the first one back on defense."
Tabor, who helped the Indians to the Division 3 state championship last year, fits the bill as one of the smartest players on the field.
"You have to have a good sense of where to pass the ball to or know where there's space to dump and get it out of your zone, and that's Michael," Renauld said. "He works very hard. He's done it well."
Shaughnessy projects as the stopper for the Mountaineers, always a Division 1 contender.
"He's a good marker," coach Skip Knight said. "He sees the field very well."
Knight describes the stopper as the quarterback of his team.
The Warriors use Morin, in back, and Crocker, up front, on the field at the same time.
"They do a great job holding the middle for us," Nipmuc coach Bill Leaver said.
Morin, a senior, and Crocker, a junior, both started last year for Nipmuc, the Central Mass. Division 2 runner-up.
"The way we play the position, the player has to recognize tendencies and not get swayed," Leaver said. "They see the field very well."
With a young team, the Chieftains won just five games last year. Coach Don Freda said there will be more concentration on defense this year, with Way playing a key role. "Stopper's a key position for us," Freda said. "He's up on (the opponent's) top scorer, marking him man-to-man. It's one of the toughest positions to play defensively."
The Tigers will use Crawford and Nadreau, both seniors and captains, to play the role of stopper this season.
Both played key roles on last year's team, helping a defense that gave up only 1.4 goals a game.
"They are both effective defenders," Douglas coach Alex Ferguson said. "Greg is very athletic and quick, while Mike is very tough and plays the ball well out of the back."
Both are also members of the basketball team, and Crawford was a D3 T&G all-star in baseball last spring.
CUTLINE: Northbridge High junior Casey Peterson played a major role in helping the Rams to the Central Mass. Tournament last fall.
PHOTOG: MARK C. IDE
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Sep 5, 2007|
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