Woodland senior kicker and punter John Scifers displayed his big leg every week for the Wildcats’ football program over the past two seasons.
Now that his high school career is over, Scifers is taking his talents to the SEC as he has committed to play for Mississippi State.
“Over the summer, when I went to [kicking and punting] camps, ... I performed well and made a connection with the coaches there, so that’s where the interest started,” Scifers said of his college decision. “We kept in touch and they invited me to come to the campus, got to tour the facilities and got to watch a practice. The coaches were all really nice and friendly, and the staff and everybody is helpful. Most importantly, they have the major I want. I want to major in forensics, and they have biochemistry with a forensics concentration.”
“It’s great. Obviously, it’s good for our program here, but it’s better for him. He’s got a chance to be a part of a dream school and go to a Division I SEC program,” Woodland head coach Tony Plott said of Scifers going to Mississippi State. “It’s something that he’s always wanted to do, and he’s worked hard to put himself in a position to be able to accomplish that.”
While Scifers will not be on scholarship, he will be a part of the team once classes begin in the fall.
Scifers had interest from several other schools, including South Carolina, Mercer, Georgia State, Birmingham Southern, Millsaps College, Wofford and Huntingdon College, but is excited to play major college football for Mississippi State.
“Davis Wade Stadium is a great stadium. ... The atmosphere is great, and just the intensity Mississippi State has on gamedays is amazing,” Scifers said. “The coaches are all excited about improving the team for next year, so I’m excited to join the team and get going next fall.”
Scifers drew interest from colleges this summer during the kicking and punting camps he attended. Mississippi State spotted him at a Dan Orner kicking showcase in Atlanta.
“Dan Orner is a kicking coach that is based in North Carolina and South Carolina,” Scifers said. “He’s one of the coaches I enjoyed working with very much and has taught me a lot. He had the connection at Mississippi State.”
While at that camp in July this summer, Scifers finished in the top five in both the kickoff and field goal competitions at the camp, only being eliminated on a 51-yard field goal off the goalpost. His long at a camp this summer was a 52-yarder in front of James Franklin, head coach at Penn State.
Scifers nearly matched that distance during the high school season as he hit two 47-yard field goals his senior year, which is the school record. He went 5-for-6 on field goal attempts this past season from distances of 47 yards twice, 31 yards, and two 25-yard field goals. He also converted 15-of-16 extra points.
“His junior and senior year, he was a huge part of what we did special teams-wise. We always felt like he was a weapon for us,” Plott said of Scifers. “Kicking field goals, especially this year, we felt like if we got to the 30-yard line, we were in field-goal range with him. That took a lot of pressure off of us offensively.”
On kickoffs, he booted 10 into the end zone for touchbacks, and as the team’s punter, he kicked for a 43.2-yard average, the best in the county.
“We did some different things with him punting. John had the experience of doing the rugby-style punting and also your traditional spread punt. He did a little bit of everything for us and was very good at both,” Plott said. “John was our kickoff guy and was a guy who was able to kick the ball off into the end zone anytime we needed him to. Also, if we wanted to do different onside kicks or squibs and get the ball back, he was able to do that and was very effective doing that.”
His junior season, Scifers made all 13 of his extra point attempts and made four field goals, including three from a distance of 40 yards or more.
His biggest kick came in the final game of the 2014 season when he hit a 42-yard field goal to take the lead at North Atlanta with five seconds remaining in the game to take the lead. Woodland lost the game by a score of 15-13 with North Atlanta kicking a field goal on an untimed down to end the game, but Scifers hit two big field goals in the game to put the Wildcats in a position to win.
For his efforts, Scifers was named to The Daily Tribune News All-County Team in each of his two seasons as a starter for Woodland.
Plott attributed Scifers’ success in his career to his hard work in the offseason and during practices.
“The work ethic that he brought in each day in practice rubbed off on the other kids,” Plott said of Scifers. “He took what he did seriously and worked very hard at it. He would work at practice and also do some camps and stuff to try to get himself an opportunity to be better, and he did that. I wish we had more kids that worked the way John has worked.”
“I feel like I had a good career. I missed some field goals and I got mad at myself, but that’s a part of the job — missing and getting back and learning from my mistakes,” Scifers said. “As the two years went on, I ended up 100 percent on extra points [as a junior] and I missed one field goal. This year, I had an even better season than last year. So I’m glad that [former Woodland head coach Vince DiLorenzo] and coach Plott gave me opportunities to play on their team and be a part of that. They prepared me for the next level and I just can’t wait.”
Off the field, Scifers held a 3.92 grade point average at Woodland, and he hopes to contribute to Mississippi State’s football program by leading the way in the classroom.
“Off the field, I’m going to major in biochemistry in forensics and, eventually, I want to get a job in a crime lab, so that major is going to help me the most,” Scifers said. “I want to stay loyal to my studies as much as I can, and as a kicker, kicker’s usually have high GPAs and boost the team GPA, so that is my goal.”
On the field, Scifers will specialize in field goals and kickoffs.
“I will be mostly a kicker. My punting is not to the level where it needs to be at an FBS school such as Mississippi State, so I will probably transition to just being a kicker,” he said. “The guy that did kickoffs, their kickoff specialist, graduates this year, and the returning punter and field goal kicker are going to be juniors next year. I want to make that impact so I can eventually get that playing time there.
“... When I do get [to Mississippi State], I hope to come in there and make an impact from the first day I’m on campus. ... I just want to come in and say, ‘Hey, look what I can do.’”