Soccer players kicking it for football

The Southerner

By Zoe Madlem and Henry Smalley

The football team acquired several new players from the soccer team, who have quickly become fan favorites as kickers.

Despite the vast differences between soccer and football, soccer players throughout the country have been making the switch to football kickers for a while. Josh Scobee, a current NFL kicker drafted in the fifth round of the 2004 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, played soccer instead of football for most of his youth.

“They are good enough athletes to be able to transition to kick a football as opposed to a soccer ball,” coach Earthwind Moreland said.

Kickers and punters practice an hour to an hour and a half a day, and coaches focus on perfecting their kicking technique. The athletes already have the endurance and fitness from soccer, but need to learn how to properly execute a punt, kickoff or field goal attempt.

“The hardest thing about the transition was the kick itself, football is all about following through and in soccer it is not necessarily all about following through,” junior kicker Quinn Cowden said.

The kicker and punter positions are filled this season by two seniors; Max Menzies and Calder Johnson, and two juniors; Cowden and Clifford Soro.

“I have always been interested in playing football; it has been one of my favorite sports growing up; and I finally got the chance to try it when I heard [the team] needed some kickers,” Soro said.

The typical high school football crowds are much larger than the typical high school soccer crowds. With that comes added pressure.

“It can be scary when you are out there playing in front of a huge crowd,” Cowden said. “[The crowd] is definitely a lot bigger for football than soccer games. Mindset is everything.”

The kicker also faces the pressure of his position, where he is expected to make all of his kicks. The game can come down to the the kicker, adding to the pressure.

“The kicking position is almost like a quarterback,’’ Moreland said. “You can lose and win games based off one play.”

On their preseason hunt for kickers, Moreland and the coaching staff knew exactly where to look first. The team has had success in the past recruiting soccer players and transforming them into impactful kickers and punters.

“A while back even when I was an assistant coach, we always used to focus on the soccer players when it came to finding kickers,” Moreland said. “We knew we had a good soccer team, and we also figured we could teach them how to kick a football.”

Ultimately the team gained four new players competing for kicker and punting positions, and these players continue to compete for playing time in every game.

“All the kickers that are on the team play soccer together so we are all good friends, so there is not that much unfriendly competition, it is all good,” Soro said.

 The benefits of football are not limited to just on the field.

“You definitely get more girls playing football,” Cowden said.