The decision to transfer from Danvers High to St. John’s Prep was not an easy one for Carter Ocko . But the move has paid dividends for the senior centerback, who has been showered with accolades following a stellar campaign on the soccer pitch for the Eagles.
“It’s the best choice I’ve made in my high school career,” said Ocko, who transferred after two varsity season at Danvers.
“To be at the Prep, it’s a lot to live up to on and off the field, so I have been challenged along the way and I feel stronger for it.”
To read the list of what he has accomplished in his two seasons with the Prep is as tiring as trying to push an offense through him and his mates on the backline.
Following his final season, Ocko was named to the Eastern Mass., All-State, and All-New England teams, was selected the Catholic Conference Player of the Year, and was named to the league’s postseason all-star team for the second straight season.
This following a second straight Catholic Conference championship and a deep run into the postseason that culminated in a Division 1 North sectional final appearance.
“At the beginning of the season I just wanted to play; none of this was on my mind,” said Ocko of the awards he has received. “I think many people didn’t expect us to go as far as we did in the postseason, so it makes all of this that much better.”
In his final game on the pitch, against a powerful Somerville offense, Ocko stood out as he marked 30-goal scorer Felix De Bona, frustrating the senior and the rest of the Highlanders attackers.
“We only play with three guys in the back,” said St. John’s Prep coach Dave Crowell .
“Carter allows for us to do that. Without him we couldn’t play that format, and it allows for guys to take risks up front knowing that he is back there.”
In the end the Eagles succumbed to Somerville, 1-0, in the Division 1 North final, but not before Ocko and his teammates left it all out on the field.
Ocko hopes to continue playing at the next level, but just like his choice to go to St. John’s Prep, academics will be key in his decision making.
“Chances are high that I will continue to play,” said Ocko. “[Coming to the Prep] will prepare me for what lies ahead.”
Others who stood out
There were a number of other players who starred on the pitch this season. Here’s a look at a few who took their game to the next level:
D Courtney Long , Ipswich – The Tigers snuck into the tournament in the last week of the regular season, but peaked at just the right time. And thanks to a staunch defense, led by Long, Ipswich made a deep run all the way to the Division 3 North final.
An All-Cape Ann selection for the second straight season, Long was integral in halting the advances of the opposing offenses, sending long clearing drives far down field before any shots could get on. Her efforts helped the Tigers post three clean sheets in their four postseason victories.
F Courtney Walsh and F Alli Wiggins , Central Catholic – Wiggins, a sophomore, and Walsh, a junior, hooked up for five of their team’s 11 postseason goals. The tandem was able to find each other in open spaces and when one couldn’t finish, the other was sure to, as the Raiders advanced to the Division 1 North title game only two years after winning it all. The two connected for their team’s only goal in a 1-0 win over a tough Lincoln-Sudbury team in the sectional semifinals.
F Evan Dudney , North Andover – In the postseason, the senior striker found the back of the net three times and assisted on two goals as the Scarlet Knights won their first Division 2 North sectional in 12 years. He also deposited a penalty kick in a quarterfinal shootout victory over Winchester. He capped a victory over Concord-Carlisle by sprinting past everyone for an open-net goal to seal the title for North Andover.
K Luis Guerra , Somerville – The junior keeper was an unsung hero in the Highlanders’ run to a Division 1 North sectional title. With his offense scoring at will against opponents, Guerra went mostly unnoticed until he missed the first half of a first-round against Billerica and Somerville quickly trailed, 1-0, for the first time all season. He held the fort as the Highlanders rallied for a 6-2 win against the Indians and followed that with a 1-0 shutout of Westford in the second round. Four days later he repeated that effort with a 1-0 shutout of St. John’s Prep in the Division 1 North final, making three key saves to keep the Eagles off the board as the Highlanders fought tooth-and-nail for another one goal victory.
K Casey Cook , Beverly – The Panthers made a Cinderella-type run to a Division 1 North championship, and Cook was the backbone support that made it all hold up in the end. A junior midfielder by trade, she stepped between the pipes in the postseason to lead Beverly to its first sectional title, posting two shutouts and a shootout victory in the final versus previously unbeaten Central Catholic, when she stopped 19 shots in regulation.
“Casey can be a crazy lady out there. She has an immediate impact, and she wins everything,” said Beverly coach Kristin Simpson. “She’s a tremendous field player. I wish I could split Casey in half.”
In five postseason games in net, Cook allowed only five goals.
Craig Forde can be reached at cforde@globe. Follow him on Twitter@BeyondFenway.