Trying to find an appropriate word to describe Southern's senior midfielder Josh Booth can be a difficult chore with a number of choices, until you glance up at the Class 2A school's scoreboard.
There is the word "Bulldogs."
Call Booth the marked Bulldog, but with his team a surprising 3-3-1 after a monumental 2-2 tie against county power Severna Park on Tuesday, that's fine by him.
After scoring eight goals and adding two assists last season as a junior -- earning Booth first-team, All-County status -- opposing defenses are now taking notice.
"Last year, I was just another one of the players. This year, I'm getting marked a lot closer. I look at it as respect from what I did last year," he said. "It can be frustrating, but I have to deal with it. And what I've learned is that you have to just play your game and not try to do too much."
Southern's second-year coach V.J. Keith describes Booth's game as a perfect blend of finesse and power with a big dose of intensity added to the mix.
"He's a rare player. Skill-wise, he can do it all, and his desire to compete is amazing," Keith said. "There are some players with a tremendous amount of skill, but no intensity or physical play. There are others who don't necessarily have the skill but play as hard as they can and are able to do some things. Josh can do it all."
That was apparent against Severna Park, a game in which he wasn't expected to play.
In a tough 2-1 loss to Meade on Saturday, Booth went up for a head ball and, after colliding with a defender, came down with a gash on the top of his head that required five staples.
He had two removed earlier in the week, but the rest had to stay until yesterday morning.
Would he play Tuesday or not? Easy question for Booth.
So there he was, scoring Southern's first goal, winning head balls throughout, playing all but one of the 100 minutes the overtime session required and simply being Josh -- staples or no staples.
Booth is quick to answer where all his intensity and competitiveness comes from: "Being the youngest in the family. With two older brothers and two older sisters, everything was a competition. We used to see who could eat dinner the quickest."
His brother Adam, a 1996 Southern grad now playing football at Swarthmore, remembers all the days playing one-on-one soccer with his younger brother.
"We'd play on the whole soccer field and go at it for a pretty long time -- there was a lot of scoring," he said as both disputed which came out the winner more often.
Josh is a three-sport standout, also playing basketball and lacrosse. He played baseball when he was younger and also gave football a try during his sophomore year -- playing JV quarterback.
But since he began playing at 4, soccer always has been his favorite sport because "the game never stops." He plans on playing in college, preferably at a small Division I school down south.
"He can go to the next level with his skills," Keith said. "He's a complete player -- strong in the air, excellent with both feet and has the ability to finish. He also has excellent vision. Most players don't see what he can see."
Booth also sees the Bulldogs getting better and better.
After a 4-9 season in 1996 filled with a lot of hard work but little to show except some one-goal losses, the Bulldogs are being rewarded for their resourcefulness.
"We're getting rid of the attitude that we're just a small 2A school going up against all the bigger ones," Keith said. "We don't have the depth some schools have, so what happens is we often have some sophomores and freshmen playing on varsity instead of getting the chance to develop at the JV level. We're working hard, and it's like a puzzle, getting people in spots where they can excel. We're getting close."
The tie with Severna Park was a huge step.
"That was so big for the program," said Booth, noting it was the first success the Bulldogs have ever enjoyed against the Falcons, who reached the Class 4A finals last season.
"When Mr. Keith came, there was a big turn-around," said Booth. "Now, we can't let down."
Pub Date: 10/02/97