St. Paul's School for Girls students show football chops

The NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition kicked off its season with a bit of feminine flair when the first of several local PPK events debuted at St. Paul's School for Girls on Sept. 9

Other Baltimore-area PPK events will be held in Baltimore city and Catonsville on Sept. 14.

The opening round of the competition welcomed boys and girls ranging in age from 6-15 to the Brooklandville school to do exactly what's in the title: Punt, pass and kick a football as far and as accurately as possible in order to reach sectionals Oct. 7.

Only age-group winners will advance to that round, which also will be held at the St. Paul's.

Hosting the regionals is considered to be another coup girls athletics in general, the school and its middle school basketball coach, Lu Ann Blackman, one of the main volunteer organizers of the event.

Not all the girls who competed in the first round attend St. Paul's, including Dumbarton Middle School eighth-grader Elizabeth Rockhill, an age-group champion from Rodgers Forge and the athlete who totaled the most yardage among all participants.

That she participated, though, shows that the event's appeal to girls in the area may be picking up steam.

"Sometimes, girls show up at a PPK event and they're the only girl," PPK state chairman Tom LaNeve said. "But at a girls' school, the girls can see what the competition will be like at a place where they're comfortable."

Results from each participant was were only measured against results from others in their age and gender groups.

"It's so important for the girls to believe in themselves," said Blackman, a Towson resident, about why hosting the events at an all-girls school is near and dear to her heart. "And it's important to give them the opportunity to compete in an NFL event."

Before the first pass was thrown, at least three of the 11 prospective St. Paul's PPK entrants were counting on some guidance they received from football players in their family.

Jillian Randolph, whose great uncle is NFL Hall of Fame member Lenny Moore, said she has asked the Baltimore Colts legend for tips regarding the sport.

She also had some help from an older brother and by having what she calls "pretty big hands" to help her in the passing portion of the competition.

Besides, Randolph is already used to performing at a high level on the varsity volleyball and basketball teams.

On Sept. 7, the 6-foot sophomore recorded a team-high eight kills in the Gators' three-game sweep of Roland Park Country School in volleyball.

"Jillian is very well-rounded, athletically and academically," Blackman said. "She's also very soft spoken, but competitive. I'd be willing to bet the house that she advances (to the sectional meet)."

Blackman's prognostication was right on the money, considering Randolph finished first in her age-group.

Eighth-grader Ally Pino also benefited from insider information. After all, her brother, Anthony, is the St. Paul's boys school varsity starting quarterback, a sophomore who tossed a pair of touchdown passes in a 62-7 romp over Western Tech on Sept. 7.

"He told me to put my fingers on the laces, hold the ball in an L-shape and follow through (on a pass)," said Ally, who was beaten out by Rockhill in the 12-13 age group.

Anthony said that he and his sister "mess around in the yard, throwing the ball a little bit. I just want her to do the best she can."

As for Ally's classmate, Maggie Root, her father is from Texas where football is king, and some of that love of the sport has rubbed off on her.

Moreover, Maggie's background in the sport may go beyond her peers in that she plays in a coed flag football game every Thanksgiving.

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