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Louisville girl finishes second nationally in NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition

By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Feb. 1, 2001
LOUISVILLE Tossing a football around in the backyard is a normal and sometimes even mundane activity for most 11-year-olds.
But for 11-year-old Rebecca Carter, playing with a pigskin has definitely taken her places.
The Winston Academy student finished second in the nationwide Gatorade Punt, Pass and Kick competition held during the AFC Wild Card round of the National Football League playoffs.
Carter got to the national competition by winning a local Louisville Punt, Pass and Kick competition and then taking first in the sectional competition held at Meridian's Ray Stadium.
From there, Rebecca went on to the Louisiana Superdome, where she competed at halftime of a New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Falcons game to earn the right to travel to Oakland where she came up just short of taking home top honors in the country in her age division.
Out of 3.5 million kids nationwide that vie for Punt, Pass and Kick titles each year, Carter who has been competing in PPK since she was nine finished second. She is also quickly becoming an ace softball player, having been called on to play on a tournament team out of Starkville called the Diamond Dreams. Her mother Julie, a Winston County nurse, described her as a genuine talent.
Rebecca, somewhat shy as most 11-year-olds are, did open up to give her feelings on going to Oakland. "I liked going places and seeing all the football players play at the Black Hole," she said, referring to the Oakland Coliseum. "The Raider fans were really wild, too."
What follows is an account by her father and two-year softball coach, Ken on what the whirlwind of events were like for the family, specifics about the competition and what it all means to Rebecca.
We've advanced to the regional competition for the past four years, and to do that you have to win the local thing in Louisville and the sectional held in Meridian. You compete in your age group and there are four of those (8-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15) and are they are broken down into boys and girls categories. When you get to the Regionals, you compete against the top four in your region and they total the scores and whoever comes out on top, they win the regional.
She has won the regional the last two years, this year she had the top score of any girl there. She even beat the 14 and 15 year-old girls. And even though it didn't count for anything, she beat the 10-11 yr-old boys. The only thing that counted there in New Orleans was that she was the champion of the 10-11 girls. But it was good to know that she did better than those other kids.
Her score was a 259 (feet) and that is out of the three totals of her punt pass and kick. They take one punt, one pass and one kick and one try is all you get. And they take the total length, but they subtract the accuracy.
They have a hash-mark and you have to be right on the line. You have to hit the line. If you are off three feet to the left or three feet to the right, or 30 feet, they deduct that from your length.
But, the only way you can advance to the nationals is that you have to be one of the top four scorers nationally, and that's out of all the representatives of the 32 teams in the NFL.
When Rebecca entered the nationals, she faced three other girls. One was from Green Bay, one from San Diego and one from Oakland. Their scores outdid all the other girls. Going in, Rebecca was leading with a 259. The girl from Green Bay, Natalie Bumgardner, entered in with a 256.
The two girls from California had scores in the 220's. It was a tough competition out in Oakland, but in the end, the girl from the Packers beat her, I think by 11 feet. It was on accuracy, because they were neck-and-neck the whole way. The girl was from Wassau, Wisconsin and she actually played football on the 7th grade junior high team, so she was pretty tough, winning the competition on her 12th birthday.
People have asked us, what she won, and I guess the biggest thing was that she won recognition. The national competition was on Nickelodeon on Super Bowl Sunday and she got a certificate and all sorts of stuff from the Saints.
All the first place winner gets is a big trophy. But even though Rebecca didn't finish first, there was still the thrill of the NFL flying us expense paid from Jackson all the way to Oakland, California. Just to get to see an AFC Wild Card playoff game was something else. I mean, there were people paying $800 in scalped tickets just to get in. They also put us up at the Marriot and gave us per diem money.
My wife was saying how she didn't know of many 11 year-old girls that had taken their parents to California and won second in the nation in anything. It's an accomplishment, especially since we are from a small town in Mississippi. When you think of all the kids all over the country that are from the bigger areas and they have a greater opportunity to advance because of all the things offered that people in small towns don't have access to.
It was a quick trip, as we flew out Friday and flew back Sunday night, but again, even though she didn't finish first, there were plenty of rewards for her and us.
Ken Carter is a resident of Louisville and is an electrical supervisor at Georgia Pacific. Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

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