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Firestone continues legacy

Her second Punt, Pass & Kick title is one more than brother

Her second Punt, Pass & Kick title is one more than brother

January 25, 2009|By Chris Carter

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- Sarah Firestone is the best 13-year-old female punter, passer and kicker in America.

She's just not quite the best punter, passer and kicker under the Firestone roof.

Sarah won the 2009 NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick competition this month -- her second national title -- yet the James Buchanan Middle School eighth-grader concedes that her older brother, A.J. still has a leg up.

"I don't think I could beat my brother out as a senior," said Sarah, who is applying to be a freshman next year at Mercersburg Academy -- where A.J., currently a junior, holds punting and kicking duties for the Blue Storm.

"A lot of my teachers have been hassling me, saying that I should go out for football, but I try to shrug it off. ... It would be neat to be a girl on the football team, though."

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At this point, it's probably not in the cards for Firestone, who will have other sports options come autumn 2009. She plays both volleyball and soccer -- both fall sports at Mercersburg -- so football would likely take a back seat.

But when it comes to the Punt, Pass & Kick competition, Sarah has been in the driver's seat.

She took on all comers in the 12-13-year-old girls division and won the competition by 40 feet, scoring a personal-best 302 feet, 9 inches to become a two-time champion.

She won the national title before the NFC divisional playoff game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., on Jan. 10. Her first Punt, Pass & Kick title came as an 11-year-old in New Orleans in 2007.

"The pressure wasn't really on. ... Well it was, but it wasn't as hard because I knew what to expect this time," Sarah said. "It was really cool to go to North Carolina because I've never been there before."

Not only that, Sarah shared a hotel with the Super Bowl-bound Cardinals. She met some of the Arizona offensive linemen, kicker Neil Rackers, and even former two-time league MVP Kurt Warner, making his third Super Bowl appearance.

She got a snapshot with Warner, 37, who will likely become the third-oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl.

"My dad and I were sitting in the (hotel) lobby Kurt walked by to go into the team room," Sarah said. "When he came back, we were sitting at the same table and he came by and my mom asks him for a picture. ... He said, 'Good luck,' and he thought that me being there for the competition was really cool."

Sarah settled for meeting Warner after missing out on the chance to run into her favorite player, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, whose team hosted a divisional game in 2008 when Sarah fell just shy of the national competition.

"It bugged me all year that the finals were in Indianapolis and I wasn't able to go there and be at Peyton Manning's game," she said. "My total wasn't good enough to make it."

Still, Sarah has plenty to remember from her experiences with the Punt, Pass & Kick competition. Her first appearance came in Pittsburgh as a 9-year-old when she and A.J., then 13, became the first siblings to both make it to the national finals.

A.J. won his first and only title, while Sarah finished third. Who would've thought that Sarah would have a more decorated career in the event?

"My brother was involved in it and I would help him by running after balls when he was practicing," Sarah said. "When I was 8 years old I told my dad, 'I want to do this, I want to do this.'"

In the latest chapter, Sarah won the local competition at James Buchanan High School, won the sectional at Harrisburg's City Island, then the regional at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, whom she represented in the national competition.

Her travels have gone far and wide in the name of the Punt, Pass & Kick competition -- and they're not quite finished because she has two years of eligibility left.

"I'll be doing it until I'm 15, that's the limit," Sarah said. "I'm working for a dynasty."

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