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NFL event draws kids from far, wide

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com
Nathan Hughes of Basalt follows through after kicking a football off a tee during the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick local competition at the Carbondale Middle School football field on Saturday. Despite a turnout of just 12 competitors, they came from as far as Grand Junction and Meeker to take part in the event.
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

CARBONDALE — The lack of playing experience Caley Marquardt has didn’t keep her from participating in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Competition held at Carbondale Middle School on Saturday.

“I’ve been playing for five days,” said the 11-year-old Marquardt, who also admitted that she came because her little sister, 6-year-old Peyton, wanted to compete. “I’m not a football player. I actually like volleyball a lot more, but it was a great experience and I did pretty well for only having played five days.”

Caley actually ended up winning the girls 10- to 11-year-old age group with her performance, though she kind of did it by default since she was the only competitor in that age group. She wound up being part of a small but wide-ranging turnout for a local event that could potentially land one of Saturday’s competitors onto a much bigger stage.

Caley was one of nine kids who competed on Roaring Fork High School’s football field for the National Football League sanctioned event. It’s one of two Punt, Pass and Kick local competitions in the area — the next one takes place Sept. 19 at Deerfield Park in Rifle.

Winners of their respective age groups in the local competitions automatically advance to the sectional round. Winners from there can advance to the team championship — which in this case would take place during halftime of a Denver Broncos game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High — before those winners advance to national finals.

That prospect alone was pretty cool to the kids who were competing on Saturday.

“That would be cool,” said 7-year-old Ryder Hutchinson of Basalt, who took part in last year’s event when it was at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. “I got to see Demaryius Thomas at his camp [in Denver]. I wanna see him again.”

Some of the parents sure wouldn’t mind driving that far, and it showed on Saturday. The father of the Marquardt girls drove all the way from Grand Junction to have his daughters compete, while others, like 12-year-old Ruben Samuelson of Carbondale, 8-year-old Nathan Hughes of Basalt and 7-year-old Carter Johnson of Silt, had a much easier time getting to Carbondale.

Competitors have one attempt at three categories: punting, passing and kicking. All scores are based on distance, and the competitor with the highest score in his or her age group moves on to the next round.

Event coordinator Coley Campbell, though he was hoping for a larger turnout, is hopeful that word will spread about the event for the future. In the meantime, parents who brought their kids to the free-of-charge competition saw it simply as a way of providing more options for their children.

“He really likes sports — anything with a ball, really,” said Michelle Johnson, Carter Johnson’s mother. “This gives them a chance to try something new. If they don’t like it, that’s OK. But at least he tried it.”


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