Record-setting Smith hopes to play pro soccer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2008

NATCHEZ — Ross Smith has set some lofty goals for himself.

The Natchez High soccer standout doesn’t just want to perform well on the high school or college pitch, he wants to take his game to the highest level.

“My goal is to make it to MLS (Major League Soccer),” the senior forward said. “There’s only one person from Mississippi playing in the MLS right now (Justin Mapp from Brandon who plays with the Chicago Fire) and I plan on being the second.”

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If Smith’s high school career is any indication, that goal might not be too far out of reach.

Smith has scored 75 goals in his career, including a school-record 29 this season in just nine games, an average of over three goals per game.

The Bulldogs (6-2-1) have six regular season games left and Smith is on pace to finish the year with an astonishing 48 goals.

“Ross is an amazing talent,” Natchez coach Dennis Hogue said. “He is a playmaker on the field. He’s got moves, speed and a rocket for a leg. He can flat blast the ball. He’s as solid a player as you can get.”

Smith began playing soccer in Natchez youth leagues at age 4 but liked playing football better.

However, as he got older, he realized his talent lay not in football, but futbol.

“Football used to be my favorite, but I got better at soccer so it became my favorite,” Smith explained.

He honed his skills by playing summer league soccer and the Natchez Tornadoes travel team. He also has participated in numerous soccer camps, such as the Eurotech camp, recognized as one of the best camps in the country.

However, Smith says his success is not just about him. In fact, Smith says one of the biggest reasons for his success is the play of his teammates, especially fellow forward Kent Calvit, who has assisted on almost all of Smith’s goals.

“If it weren’t for Kent, I wouldn’t be scoring like I am,” Smith said. “We’ve played together five years and our chemistry is amazing. We know where each other is on the field at all times.”

Calvit, a sophomore who has 10 goals himself, said he doesn’t mind forgoing goal-scoring glory to give an assist to his buddy.

“It’s nice having him to pass to because I don’t have to do all the work. I just pass it to him,” Calvit said. “I’m going to miss us playing soccer together.”

Smith knows his gaudy goal-scoring numbers guarantee other teams will key on him in order to beat Natchez, but said he has full confidence in his teammates to get the job done if he is being double or triple-teamed.

“If the other team makes it a point to shut me down, I know I have Kent or Josh West to pass it to,” Smith said. “But I like the ball to be at my feet. If it’s a close game, I want to take that shot.”

While Smith is shattering the Natchez High record books, he is more than just a flashy goal-scorer, his coach says.

“He is the leader of the team,” Hogue said. “He always stays positive and upbeat. If he sees a teammate get upset, he’ll go over and encourage him. He’s golden. I wish I could have a Ross every year.”

Smith will take his game to Copiah-Lincoln Community College next year, where he was offered a full soccer scholarship.

“I plan on making a big impact,” Smith said. “I’m just honored to get the opportunity and be rewarded for all my hard work.”

And if he keeps working, Smith may just find that Co-Lin is just the first step to a great career.