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Fourth-grader to compete in NFL team championship

By Julie Garcia
Nov. 20, 2013 at 5:20 a.m.

Matthew Garcia, 9, will compete in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Team Championship competition Sunday at the Houston Texans game at Reliant Stadium.

SCORING AND COMPETITION RULES

•  Each participant is allowed one punt, one pass and one placekick as part of his or her competition.

•  Scores are based on both distance and accuracy. For example, if a participant passes the ball 100 feet, but the ball lands 30 feet to the right of the measuring tape, the final score is calculated by deducting 30 from 100, for a final score of 70. Scores are based on exact feet and inches (partial inches are rounded to nearest inch). Participants cannot receive a negative score, but they can receive a score of zero.

•  A participant's final score is his or her cumulative total for the three individual events. For example, if the participant scores 40 for punting, 60 for passing and 22 for kicking, the participant's final score would be 122.

•  If a participant goes over the line prior to or before releasing or making contact with the ball, he or she is penalized five feet. The only exception is in kicking, where a participant may go over the line without penalty, provided the tee is placed on or behind the line.

•  There is no violation if the kicking tee is kicked with the football during the kicking event.

•  Scores are determined from where a participant's punt/pass/kick first makes contact with the ground. Bounces or rolls do not add to the score.

•  If a participant tries to punt, pass or kick and misses the ball completely, it does not count as an attempt, and another attempt is allowed.

SOURCE: WWW.NFLPPK.COM

Nine-year-old Matthew Garcia hopes to meet his favorite NFL player, Andre Johnson, in Houston on Sunday.

There's a good chance that the DeLeon Elementary student will meet the Houston Texans' wide receiver as Matthew has advanced to the Team Championships for the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition.

Matthew will travel to Houston on Saturday and Sunday, where he will have one shot to punt, pass and kick a football as far as possible from the end zone.

According to the NFL PPK website, scores are based on both distance and accuracy. The final score is his or her cumulative total for the three individual events.

Matthew won first place for the 8- to 9-year-old division when the Victoria Parks and Recreation department hosted a local competition at Riverside Park in September.

The bright-eyed fourth-grader said that before the competition started, he was nervous.

"His dad has been practicing with him since he could walk," mother Tina Garcia said. "He's a sports nut."

Garcia advanced with three other participants to the sectional competition in San Antonio on Oct. 12. His overall score was 205 points, and he was chosen to compete in Houston by the NFL.

The Garcia family found out only two weeks ago that he would be in the team championship.

Each of the 32 NFL teams have a team championship competition.

Finishing up his first season as a kicker for CYFL team Junior Titan Red, Garcia said he liked playing on the team.

He has been playing Little League baseball since he was 4 or 5 years old. He's a pitcher, and his father, Ernie Garcia, is a coach.

"He has a lot of natural ability," Ernie Garcia said. "I told him as long as he practices, he has a good future in sports."

Every participant in Sunday's competition receives two Texan tickets to the sold-out game against the Jacksonville Jaguars later that day.

Matthew is one of four boys to participate in his age bracket. There is also a separate girls 8-9 year old division.

Each participant will begin with a score of zero and again will have only one chance to kick, pass and punt.

The top boy scorer and the top girl scorer within each age bracket will be declared that team's NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Team Champion and will advance to the National Finals, which will be at a NFC/AFC playoff games in January.

The four first-place Team Champions from each of the boys' and girls' divisions of all NFL Team Champions are eligible for advancement, according to the website.

"You can't mess up on one throw or anything," Ernie Garcia said. "It's fortunate that he's thrown well and kicked well each time."

Besides sports (he also plays Upward basketball), Garcia enjoys math.

"I really like multiplication and addition but not subtraction and division," Matthew said.

Sunday's competition begins at 8 a.m. in an adjoining building to Reliant Stadium in downtown Houston.

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