Not three minutes into Bedford’s 4-0 Dual County League win over Boston Latin Friday afternoon, Buccaneers defender Joe Watson heard “Step Joe! Step Joe!” from a teammate. He gladly obliged, pushing past midfield and applying pressure on the ball.
At kickoff, Watson lines up at left back, but the senior is a former forward and currently a full-field problem for opponents. Shortly after moving to the back line due to a lack of depth at the position, Watson realized he didn’t need to be limited by the change.
“I realized, why just defend when I can attack up the field, too?” Watson said postgame Friday afternoon.
His versatility was on display for all of the 60 minutes he played. Around the 36th minute, Watson made a sharp outlet pass in his own end and immediately sprinted downfield all the way into the Latin box, ready to receive a cross, though the ball ended up out of play. Early in the second half, he made a sweeping tackle near his own box to prevent a Latin scoring chance, and about 30 seconds later he lined up a shot from just beyond the Latin box.
“When we find [Watson] coming out of that left back position he can make things happen offensively,” said Bedford coach Dave Boschetto. “All the guys we have playing in the back are pretty skilled. Skill is an attribute we’ve valued in those spots.”
Watson’s aggressiveness in the attacking half hasn’t cost the Buccaneers anything in terms of defense. Through a 4-0 start to the season, they’ve not allowed a single goal.
Jesse Collins, a forward who scored a hat trick Friday, said the defense’s aggressive style prevents opponents from getting into an offensive flow.
“The other team gets squished because their strikers have to stay fairly close and not get spread out,” Collins said.
Other top teams in the state are proving that defenders are not just there to shut down incoming forwards, but are key to facilitating offense as well.
Finn O’Connor scored twice for Scituate in a 4-1 win over Whitman-Hanson last week. Scituate coach Ross Maki saw the value of having the former midfielder’s v“great composure and soccer IQ” as a senior center back.
“He can dictate what’s happening in the back for us,” Maki said. “It’s good to be able to put him in a spot where we can get the most out of his soccer IQ.”
O’Connor’s ability to steady his team from the back has been a successful plan for the Sailors (3-0-2). But he has come up to take free kicks close to the attacking goal. Both of O’Connor’s goals against W-H came on re-starts.
Roy Dow, head coach at Newton North (2-1-1), said having defenders capable of moving the ball well “brings a new dynamic to our attack, it’s an extra guy coming in later, from deeper.”
His defense features Max Johnston, a Globe All-Scholastic last fall, and Grayson Hargens, who plays basketball in the winter. Carrying over his leaping ability from the hardwood to the soccer pitch, Dow said Hargens has been excellent on headers in his own end, scoring a pair of goals in a 3-1 win over Walpole Sept. 5.
Johnston, meanwhile, had one assist each last week against Brookline (1-1 tie) and Revere (3-0 win).
Cohasset coach Jim Willis put sophomore Kevin Federle at right back last year in order to field his best 11 players, but said “he could play midfield tomorrow and be fine,” the coach said.
“He knows how to distribute, shoot, kick, head, and come up nicely,” added Willis, who has the Skippers off to a 4-0-1 start.
“It’s like having an extra center midfielder as your right back, which is awesome.”
■ The Bay State Conference put the quality of its depth on display last week. On Tuesday, Framingham shut out No. 14 Newton North and then tied No. 5 Wellesley two days later. Natick tied No. 13 Needham to begin the season. Weymouth is off to an impressive 3-1 start, and Braintree, which lists 16 seniors on its roster, is 3-0.
“[Weymouth is] always a tough team,” Wellesley coach Chris DiCecca. “They’re physical and well-coached. It’s always a battle and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them again in the state tournament.”
■ Medford returns a bulk of its talent from a season ago which has allowed the Mustangs to schedule a tough out-of-conference slate. They tied a solid Xaverian team 2-2 in the season opener and battled against reigning Division 1 state champion Ludlow in a 4-2 loss on Saturday. Medford also plays sixth-ranked Silver Lake in late October. These games should give Medford good experience come state tournament time.
■ Top-ranked St. John’s Prep conceded a pair of second half goals, leading to a 2-2 tie against Xaverian on Friday . . . Milford and Oliver Ames are off to 3-0 starts in the Hockomock League . . . West Bridgewater is 5-0 and has outscored its opponents 25-5 . . . North Reading knocked off Masconomet, 1-0, on Tuesday for its first win over the Chieftains in 23 years.
Games to watch
Tuesday, Newton North at Needham, 3:45 p.m. — The No. 13 Rockets host the No. 14 Tigers in a Bay State Conference showdown of Top 20 teams.
Wednesday, Silver Lake at Scituate, 4 p.m. — The sixth-ranked Lakers (4-0) face a tough Patriot League road test against a 3-0-2 Sailors’ squad that has already tied Nauset.
Wednesday, Somerville at Medford, 4 p.m. — The winner of this Top 20 matchup will have the upper hand in the Greater Boston League.
Wednesday, Lexington at Belmont, 7:30 p.m. — This is an intriguing Middlesex League matchup under the lights between a pair of unbeatens.
Saturday, Medway at Wellesley, 3:30 p.m. — The fifth-ranked Raiders (1-0-1), a Division 1 state finalist, welcome ninth-ranked Medway (3-0) in a nonleague affair.
Matt Doherty also contributed. Charlie Wolfson can be reached at email@example.com.