POTSDAM After practice at Potsdam Central last week, Dan Cruikshank was spotted further honing his soccer skills in his front yard along Route 56 in Hannawa Falls.
For Cruikshank, soccer is not just a fall sport, but a year-round endeavor.
Its by far my biggest sport. Soccer is my main focus, said Cruikshank who also plays youth soccer with FC Freeze in both the summer and winter. Cruikshank is the leader of the Sandstoners defense as Potsdam opens defense of its Northern Athletic Conference Central Division co-championship this coming week.
Cruikshank was a defensive stalwart and tallied a goal and five assists last year as a junior, being named to both the All-NAC and Times All-North first teams.
Potsdam coach Al Benda said Cruikshank is capable of doing it all for the Sandstoners this year.
He not only defends well, he takes a lot of our re-starts and he can be a real offensive threat, Benda said. He can strike the ball from 30-35 yards out and into the back of the net. He sees the whole field and makes the right passes. If anything, Id like to seem him take more shots. Hes a little too unselfish, a little too generous with the ball.
The 17-year-old Cruikshank doesnt see himself as an enforcer on defense, but more as a presence for his teammates.
I have a voice on the field. I want to make sure everyone knows what they should be doing, Cruikshank said. I see the field pretty well. I keep talking out there.
Dans father, Jamie, was a standout athlete at Lisbon Central and later a high school coach at Potsdam and has affected the athletic career of his son who also is a member of the Potsdam golf and winter track teams.
My father has had a huge influence on me. He inspired me to be the best soccer player I can be, Cruikshank said. He told me stories and as a kid I wanted to be just like him. I still do. Cruikshank said he hopes to follow his parents professionally. Both Jamie, and Dans mother, Kate, are teachers.
After a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Salmon River in the Class B sectional championship game last season, the Sandstoners are a team on a mission according to Cruikshank.
Ive talked to the other seniors and were hungry for it, he said. Not just sectionals, but beyond that. We lost a lot from last year, over half the team. But we think we can be just as good or better than last year.
Cruikshank is interested in SUNY Potsdam as a possible college choice because it affords the opportunity to both pursue a teaching career and also continue playing the sport he loves.
Benda believes Cruikshank can definitely play the college game.
Last year, he was striking the ball like you expect a college player to strike it, he said. And hes a team player. He knows team comes first. For what it takes, everything is there.
Some of Section 10s most prolific scorers from last season return to area fields this fall.
Three of the top five in points last year are back for another season, led by Harrisvilles Joey Butts, who ranked second in scoring last year with 22 goals and three assists. Other big scorers from a year ago who have returned are Malones Aaron Sharlow (16 goals-4 assists) and Madrid-Waddingtons Colin OBryan (14-6).
The divisions have changed for a second straight year as boys soccer returns to a three-division format.
Potsdam and OFA tied for the Central Division title a year ago and both are still in the division. But North Division champion Salmon River (7-6-1 overall) also joins the Central this season. Malone was only two points back in the Central and year ago and Massena was only four points back.
Brushton-Moira was second in the North last year and has moved back to the East Division where it will face perennial powers Parishville-Hopkinton, Chateaugay and Madrid-Waddington.
The West Division was led by an 11-0-1 Harrisville squad, though Hermon-DeKalb, Lisbn and Heuvelton should be in the mix.