Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader Kenneth Ayres passed, punted and kicked his way to the NFL PP&K 14-15-years boys Arizona state championship by racking up 333 points.
As stellar as the teen’s performance was at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 25, his mother, Leslie Fletcher-Ayres, doesn’t think the points he garnered were enough to earn him a spot in the national championships.
“I think it would have taken 360 to 370 points to go to nationals,” she said.
Of the three events — punt, pass and kick — the teen’s performance came up short in the kickoff partly because he is left footed and PP&K officials didn’t have a left foot kicking tee available.
Doing well in state PP&K competitions is nothing new for Ayres who finished second twice in the Seattle Seahawks Washington state competition.
At the time, he and his family lived in Alaska. His first runner-up finish was as a 9-year-old and his second was as an 11-year-old when he came up two inches short of winning the state title.
In addition to excelling on the gridiron, Ayres is a standout soccer player and a member of the Arizona State Olympic Development team.
Having interests in both football and soccer means when Ayres becomes a freshman, he must decided which sport to compete in because the two seasons run concurrently.
“I think he will play school football because he will be able to also play on the Olympic Development team,” his mother said.
Last season, he played on the Rim Country Middle School eighth grade football team.
Ayres advanced to the Arizona championships contested in the home of the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale by virtue of winning both the Payson and northern sectional championships.
He won the Payson title with an effort of 333 feet, 9 inches. At the sectional competition in Flagstaff, he won by racking up 343 feet.
About Punt, Pass and Kick
PP&K scores are based on both distance and accuracy. For example, if a youngster passes the ball 100 feet but the ball lands 30 feet to the right of the measuring tape the final score is calculated by deducting 30 from 100 for a final score of 70.
An entrant’s final score is his or her cumulative total for the three individual skills.
The PP&K competition allows boys and girls, ages 6 to 15 years, to showcase their football skills in punting, passing and placekicking. 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, Westin Gibson, Payson Herring and Scott Andrus.
The NFL Pepsi gridiron program is a national skills competition. 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 youngsters from around the country taking part, it is one of the world’s largest youth sports participation programs.