Bluefield College football turns to two soccer players for a leg up on kicking duties

BLUEFIELD, WV (WOAY) – When Bluefield College’s veteran kicker/punter Tanner Griffith got injured in last week’s season opener against Union College, the coaching staff had to get a little creative before their next game against St. Andrews on Feb. 13.

They had just one other kicker on the roster, Elijah Wilshire. But he had barely any punting experience and was mostly used for shorter kicks. So, special teams coach Phillip Dunford had the idea to recruit two soccer players, Axel Johansson, a junior center back from Sweden and Jake Mendoza, a sophomore goalkeeper from Stattford, VA. 

Mendoza had previously played football in high school and even as a freshman at Bluefield College. However, Johansson had barely watched the sport before, let alone played it. His first time kicking a football ever was on Monday, Feb. 8, just five days before the St. Andrew’s game. With the help of Dunford and Griffith, Johansson was able to pick up the sport quickly.

The Bluefield College coaching staff’s gamble paid off. Johansson made two extra points and a 28-yard field goal to take a lead with just 2:09 in the game. He also handled all kickoff duties. Meanwhile, Mendoza showed little rust on the gridiron, punting four times for 115 yards with a long of 44.

Next up, Mendoza, Johansson and the Bluefield College Rams take on Kentucky Christian on the road next Saturday.