Kids and Teens Bring the Heat at NFL Punt, Pass & Kick Competition




Connecticut girls and boys from ages 6 to 15 kicked off the 2015 NFL Punt, Pass & Kick Competition on Saturday, August 15. The competition was held at Water Tower Field in New Canaan, headed up by Chairperson for NFL Local in New Canaan Craig Hunt.

“This is called a local competition that we are doing now,” Hunt said. “These go from June until the end of September. The sectionals start in October…in Cheshire Connecticut; and from there they go to the nationals.”

College-bound 2015 NCHS grad Clark Newlove, who was on hand to help out, said the experience can be amazing for participants.

“You literally get to go to an NFL stadium, go out there at halftime and high-five all the players,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Participants were broken up into five separate divisions based on their age as of Dec. 31 of this year. Once registered and on the field, they were to punt the ball down a yard line, then throw it, and finally kick the ball off a tee. Both distance and accuracy were the key to victory, with all three scores being totaled for a final summary distance.

Hunt found New Canaan to be an ideal location for an NFL sponsored competition due to both the location and community.

“[New Canaan] has the field and the interest in tackle football, and one of the largest flag football programs where we are almost at 280 kids now,” Hunt said. “We had 50 registrants, which is big. The Atlanta Falcons held one of these at their stadium and only got 25 registrants.”

The competition ran in ascending order based on age brackets, with girls going first. Aryana Shah, the only participating girl for the 6-7 division, won out at 32 feet, 9 inches while Adrian Delicata took the boys bracket at 124 feet, 6 inches. Aryana’s mother, Sapma Shah, was elated with her daughter’s success and shed light on the reasoning behind signing her daughter up.

“They mentioned that they were including girls and she really doesn’t have a lot of experience with football,” Shah said, “but why say ‘no, she can’t do it’ just because she doesn’t play football or because she is a girl?”

Taylor Yancy took the girls bracket unopposed in the 8-9 bracket, with a total of 106 feet, 3 inches. Yancy, whose mother works for the NFL, claimed she enjoys practicing and playing football.

“I practiced [a lot],” Yancy said. “We don’t have a big enough yard to practice at home, so we practice here [at the turf field].”

Things got more complicated in the boys bracket, however, with Bo Noel and Simon Tchakarov both scoring 110 feet, 9 inches resulting in a tie-breaker; in the end, Tchakarov bested Noel with a surmised score of 126 feet, 7 inches.

While the 10-11 division saw no girl competing, previous two-time local champion Ty Groff claimed a third victory with a strong 208 feet, 8 inches. Groff was optimistic about improving this year.

“I think it will be tough like last year,” Groff said, “but I think I can do really well and go farther than last year.”

Groff’s father and New Canaan football coach, Ike, shared his son’s enthusiasm.

“It makes me proud,” Ike said. “He used to be a soccer player so he has got a strong leg. He also plays quarterback for his football team for the past two years, which fortunately we have had a good team. We’ve ben champions of the FCFL for two years in a row so he has got both pieces of the pie that you need to be successful here.”

Groff’s father was also optimistic about his son’s chances, although he expects the competition to get fierce.

“He went to the regionals last time and won that as well,” Ike said. “Then we went to the Giants’ stadium and that’s where you see talent explode with some seriously good players. They were impressive, so I would not be surprised if he makes it past the next level but getting to the next level after that you go to the Super Bowl so he will have to work really hard to get there.”

Rounding out the remaining brackets were Alex Pastushan with 98 feet, and Declan McNamara with 274 feet, 6 inches for the 12-13 division. Jackson Yancy joined his younger sister in the winner’s circle with 255 feet to take the 14-15 division. Overall, Hunt was pleased with both the turnout for the event and the enthusiasm from parents and participants.

“I think it went great,” Hunt said. “I think the parents had a blast and I think this will hold retention on interest when we do this next year. Certainly the numbers should triple or quadruple.”


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