A pair of Payson teenagers showcased their gridiron skills Dec. 5 in the Punt, Pass and Kick state championships held at University of Phoenix Stadium just prior to the Cardinals game against the St. Louis Rams.
Skylar Way, 13, and Todd McCarthy, 14, represented the Rim Country in the prestigious competition that began in August with the two winning Payson-area PP&K titles.
Following those wins, the teens advanced to the sectional competition in Flagstaff. There, they squared off against other community age-group champions from around northern Arizona and a portion of New Mexico. Both Payson qualifiers won sectional age-group titles in Flagstaff to advance to the state championship in Glendale.
There, each qualifier was allowed one pass, one kick and one punt attempt.
Officials then calculated their efforts to determine winners.
McCarthy, a freshman at Payson High, finished fourth overall and Way, a seventh-grader at RCMS, was second.
Both boys received a Cardinals football jersey, a ticket to the game and a football engraved with “NFL PPK 2010.”
Pamela Way, Skylar’s mother and the two teen’s chaperone in Glendale, calls the entire experience, “great fun and memories.”
In the Payson competition, McCarthy, competing in the 14-15-years boys division, racked up a healthy 258.3 points to take the gold medal.
Skylar Way threw and booted his way to the 12-13-years crown over runner-up Wyatt Chapman.
About Punt, Pass and Kick
The PP&K competition allows boys and girls, ages 6 to 15 years, to showcase their football skills in punting, passing and place kicking. Scores are based on distance and accuracy.
The program has a storied history in Payson that includes attracting some of the town’s finest young athletes into its ranks.
Among the most successful of the competitors was current Lady Longhorn soccer coach Amy Wilcox, who won four Payson PP&K championships. In 2000, she captured the sectional crown and advanced to Sun Devil Stadium, then the home of the Arizona Cardinals, where she came within an eyelash of winning a berth in the national PP&K championships.
Others who have participated and gone on to excel at Payson High School include Waylon Pettet, Nate Lee, Porter Wilbanks, Retosha Marshall and Scott Andrus.
A pair of seniors on the 2010 PHS varsity football roster, Westin Gibson and Payson Herring, also once participated in PP&K.
The NFL Pepsi gridiron program is a national skills competition for boys and girls between the ages of 8-15, who compete separately against their peers.
Established in 1961, the PP&K program is the oldest NFL Youth Football program. Girls and boys in four separate age divisions compete.
The PP&K program is free — both to organizers, like the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, and to every youngster who wants to participate.
With more than 4 million boys and girls from around the country taking part in PP&K competitions, it is one of the world’s largest youth sports participation programs.
From town recreation leader Trevor LaHaye
Our third- and fourth-grade basketball registrations have begun and will run through Jan. 14. Sign up is available online or in person at the parks and recreation office, 1000 W. Country Club Drive in Green Valley Park. The cost is $30 and each player receives a Town of Payson reversible basketball jersey.