By Doug Comer
Ray Guy is a retired NFL punter who played for the Oakland Raiders from 1973-1986. The first round draft pick made a living off distance and accuracy as the seven-time pro-bowler would shut down special teams to minimal return yardage. In 2014, the NFL Hall of Fame welcomed Guy as the only punter in its history. To add, only three kickers have made it to the “Hall” while 30 quarterbacks have bronze busts of their likeness enshrined as well.
In its 53 years of existence, I could not find if any of these athletes ever participated in the NFL’s Punt, Pass or Kick events. I researched and found a woman from Kansas who was an All-American in basketball and played in the WNBA who competed on a National level equivalent to boys in her age group.
So, I am sure you have heard enough of this history lesson of the PPK and you would rather hear the results, and I agree. The point I am making is this – almost all the best athletes in the NFL made a living at one position, and here are youngsters under 15 years of age attempting to qualify at a Team or National level using the three categories necessary for advancing. It’s quite a demanding task.
Out of the eight qualifiers to participate in the Sectional qualifier at Laurel Highlands High School in Uniontown, PA last weekend, five placed first in their respective age group. Now the wait begins as Recreation Coordinator Jeff Wetzel explains.
“The Sectional qualifier has eight different sites, and they take the top four scores from all sites to determine who makes it to the Team level on December 14th in Pittsburgh. Based on the scores of our athletes, I think we have a good shot at seeing some familiar faces on Heinz field in December.”
In the boy’s division, Anthony Spatafore of Bridgeport placed first in the 8-9 year old bracket while Shinnston’s Payton Hawkins won the 10-11s. Both athletes dominated their division in local qualifiers at Summit Park.
And, on the girl’s side, the sister duo of Mia and Talia Beto won their respective age categories and await an invite to Pittsburgh. Mia, who won the 8-9 year old division, competed last year in Pittsburgh during the Team competition while Talia, who placed first in 10-11s, has to wait and see if she gets to participate in her first Team competition.
Bridgeport’s Emily Riggs is the fifth local winner and very familiar to the competition as she has won sectional and team competitions. A multiple sport athlete, Riggs is an accomplished baseball pitcher who possesses accuracy and speed, and has applied these fundamentals to the competition.
“People don’t realize the talent pool that we have in the area,” related Wetzel. “We have seen some pretty good talent come from Harrison County and I think it all stems from the competition and the drive to succeed not only on the field, but in the classroom. And, I am sure that if any of the kids make it to the Team competition, they will embrace the opportunity of being there and will succeed.”
On a final note, this past week, we sent flyers to all elementary schools in Harrison County notifying parents on information about the Youth Basketball League registration and 25th Annual Children’s Halloween Party.
Basketball registration will start on Wednesday, November 12th and will end on November 13th from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at the Harrison County Recreation Complex on Route 19th in Clarksburg. The league is open to kids in grades K – 5th and registration fee is $20 for the league. Checks or money orders will be accepted and must be made payable to the Sheriff and Treasurer of Harrison County.
The Halloween party will take place on Thursday, October 30th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm at the Recreation Complex. The event is a safe, alternative way to celebrate the evening as kids from three to 12 can come and play carnival games, get judged for best costume and take a spooky walk on the “Haunted Trail.” The first 150 kids to enter the facility will receive a bag for of goodies.
“We have had this event for over two decades and all thanks goes to the Harrison County Commission, the WVU extension office and the Vital Service Levy,” related Director Mike Book. “We had the event at the mall for years, but when we got the new building in 2006, we moved it to the rec complex because it was a perfect spot for this venue. We offer games for the kids to win prizes and, of course, the first 150 kids will receive a bag of Halloween treats.”
For more information, please contact the Harrison County Parks and Recreation at (304) 624-0481.