Boy Awaits Word From Punt, Pass, Kick

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Justin Carlen, a Payson and Sectional Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick champion, eagerly awaits word of whether he qualified to participate in regional championships to be held in the Arizona Cardinals stadium in Glendale.

"That would be fun to go there," the 11-year-old, home-schooled student said.

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Justin Carlen won the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick sectional competition. To earn a berth in the regional championship, to be held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Carlen's sectional competition point total must be among the three best at contests held throughout Arizona and New Mexico.

NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Northern Arizona sectional coordinator, Matt Faull, said Carlen should know within two weeks if he is one of three youngsters in the 11- and 12-year-old boys age group to qualify for the regional shoot out.

To earn a berth, Carlen's point total at the sectional competition must be among the three best at contests held throughout Arizona and New Mexico.

In the sectionals, held Oct. 21 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Carlen combined three distances for a punt, pass and kick totaling 243 feet. In winning the Payson age/sex group title Sept. 8 on the Longhorn baseball field, Carlen totaled 213 feet, 4 inches.

Carlen's strongest event of the three has been the kick.

"That's because I practice it a lot at Rumsey Park," he said.

Winning the local and sectional events came as a mild surprise in that both were Carlen's first attempts in the competition.

"I had never tried it before," he said.

If Carlen does qualify for the regional championships they will be held Dec. 10 just prior to an Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks game.

"The kids compete in the morning and then go out on the field during halftime to do a Punt, Pass and Kick Demonstration," said Town of Payson recreation coordinator, Mary McMullen.

If he is selected to travel to Glendale, being on the same field with the Seahawks will be a huge thrill for Carlen.

"Seattle is my favorite team," he said.

Also for Payson in the sectional competition, Marcela Amaya took third in the 8 and 9-year-old girls division.

The NFL Punt, Pass and Kick program is a national skills competition for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 15 to compete individually against their peers.

Established in 1961, the program is the oldest NFL Youth Football program.

Girls and boys in four separate age divisions (8-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15) compete against one another in punting, passing and place kicking.

The program is free, both to organizers and children who compete.

In Payson, the town Parks and Recreational Department hosts it annually.

With more than four million boys and girls from around the country taking part in the competition every year from July through January, it is one of the world's largest youth sports participation programs.

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