Nine youths from Western Montana have qualified to compete in the NFL Team Championship of the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick (PPK) program. The competition will be held in Seattle on Saturday, Nov. 19, with an awards luncheon and halftime exhibition as part of the Seahawks vs. Philadelphia Eagles NFL game on Nov. 20.
The youths, their age and home towns are: Delonte Old Person, 7, Macao Jackson, 13, and Elizabeth Bluemel, 14, all from Ronan; Sawyer Tackett, 8, and Kale Konen, 11, both from Dillon; Hailey Lowe, 7, from Thompson Falls; Marisa Snider, 9, from Ennis; Cade Morgan,13, from Columbia Falls; and Addison Arlint, 14, from St. Ignatius. Both Bluemel and Morgan are making their second appearance at the Seattle event.
The Seattle Seahawks’ region includes all of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, plus Western Montana. The Montana youngsters had to win not only their respective local PPK competition and the western Montana sectional event, held in Missoula on Oct. 9, but also be among the top four of the 11 sectional age-group winners in the Seahawks’ region. Thirteen other central and eastern Montana youngsters qualified to compete in the Denver NFL Team Championship, making a total of 22 Montana regional PPK qualifiers in 2016.
Western Montana youths have fared well at the Seattle regional competition, never failing to win at least one age-group championship over the past 21 years, and winning three age-group championships in three of those years. To advance to the national PPK championship in January, the youths competing in Seattle or Denver must win that event and be one of the top four scorers among all other regional winners representing each of the 32 NFL teams throughout the country.
Western Montana youths have performed admirably at the national level as well. In 2015, then-15-year-old Calla Haldorson of Corvallis won her age group at the national finals, and in 2014, then-7-year-old Easton Reimers of Missoula won the national title for his age group. Including Haldorson and Reimers, Montana has produced ten national finalists and four national champions over the past 21 years.