The boys lacrosse season scarcely has begun, but in many ways, Southern's is already a success story.
Four years ago, the school's police officer, Bill Nagle, began the Bulldogs' program only to watch it struggle through an 0-10 season.
This year's Bulldogs return 12 veterans, including nine starters, from a 10-2 team that was last year's Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference runner-up to Edmondson.
"This is only the fourth year for a program that didn't win a game when the seniors were freshmen," said Nagle, 45, who never played lacrosse, but learned by reading books and attending clinics.
"Most everyone on the team played in the Heroes' league over the summer, and I'm real proud of them," Nagle said. "We're real excited going into this season."
But the Bulldogs' zeal will be tempered by the death this past fall of two classmates, one of whom -- Jenny Turner, who died in October -- was the younger sister of Southern goalie, Joseph. The other student, freshman Bobby Norman, lost a battle with a severe case of asthma.
The team, including Jenny's cousin, senior midfielder Jeremy McKee, is dedicating the season to the two students by wearing their initials on their helmets. "B N" will be on the right side, with "J T" on the left.
"This season means a lot to me," said Joseph Turner, whose 15-year-old sister died in October a few days after being hit by a car. "She was a supporter of all sports and she swam, played basketball, soccer and softball. She would want us to win it all."
That's exactly what seniors Chris Lewis (midfield) and attackmen David Gurry (30 goals, 16 assists), Tom Fleming (27, 16) and Rob Turner (27, 15) have wanted to do since getting spanked as freshmen.
Together, they helped Southern to rebound to an 8-4 sophomore season. Last year, they combined for 113 of the Bulldogs' 135 goals and had 73 of Southern's 96 assists.
Lewis, a 6-foot, 160-pound athlete who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard --, scored 29 goals with 26 assists last season, earning his second consecutive C Conference Player of the Year honor.
Having joined the state association, the Bulldogs have a shot at a 4A-3A state title. And Lewis and Gurry say this is the year they're going all the way.
"We talk about it all the time," said Gurry, 5-8, 145, who first played the game as a freshman. "Sometimes, we think about our freshman year. But thinking about last year gets us more motivated. We almost won it."
Lewis, who started playing lacrosse as an eighth-grader at Lombard Middle School, is an honor roll student with 69 goals and 38 assists for his career.
For now, however, it's the Bulldogs who need Lewis most.
"Last year, I told Coach we'd get him to the championship game," said Lewis. "This year we want the state championship for Coach and for Jenny. She was in one of my classes and she was the kind of person who'd try to cheer you up if you were down. I want to keep my promise to them."