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Kickin It With the NFL

Four Molokai youth whose football skills show exceptional promise are getting an exceptional opportunity. Alika Balbas, Cassidy Victorino, Erik Svetin and Chelsen “Ena” Victorino have all advanced in the National Football League (NFL)’s Punt, Pass and Kick (PPK) program and will be representing Hawaii on Dec. 2 in San Diego as part of the team competition level. They are four of 10 youth from the state who will get to show off their skills in the San Diego Chargers stadium before the game.

“I am proud to be representing Molokai and Hawaii at the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition,” said 13-year-old Erik. “This will also be my first time attending an NFL game and I am so excited!”

The four were among millions of kids nationwide ages 6 to 15, broken into five age divisions, to compete in the PPK program. The local competition, held for the second year on Molokai and sponsored by the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, took place on Aug. 25. Each child gets the opportunity for one punt, one pass and one kick, and a score is calculated based on distance and accuracy, according to the PPK website.

The top finisher in each local age division among boys and girls moved on to the sectional competition.

The second round of testing — the sectional competition against fellow participants statewide — took place last month. Alika, Cassidy, Erik and Chelsen again came out on top, and will be among five girls and five boys from the Big Island, Maui and Molokai to advance to the team championships in San Diego, according to Hawaii PPK coordinator Brenda Kuamo`o.

“I’ve been doing this for seven years, and I was really excited to get Molokai into the competition,” she said. “Molokai has a lot of talent.”

Chelsen, a freshman at Molokai High School (MHS) and a member of the football team, also represented Hawaii last year at the team championship level.

“He was a starter [on the MHS team] as a freshman — he definitely has a lot of good football skills,” said MHS football coach Mike Kahale.

The four will compete on the Charger’s field against 40 other PPK competitors from Hawaii, Southern California and Nevada. They will run through the same tunnel the players enter before the game, and participate in pre-game activities on the field, said Kuamo`o.

“It’s really exciting because a lot of people don’t get to see the pregame. They’re overwhelmed with the whole thing,” she said of kids’ reactions to the experience.

“As a mom, we need to expose our kids to life outside of the island,” said Erik’s mother, Kim Svetin. While families must pay for their own way to participate in the event, Svetin said it’s worth it.

Only the top finisher from each boys and girls age category in the team championships will advance to the national finals, with the trip all expenses paid.


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