by nathan oster
Denver, here we come!
Two Greybull teens, Brock Hill and Shayla Cheatham, are heading to the Mile High City next month to compete in the next round of the Punt, Pass and Kick competition and be guests of the Broncos when they face the Tennessee Titans.
Brock and Shayla qualified for the “team championship” round of PPK by posting distances at the recent sectional competition that ranked among the top four in Bronco territory, which encompasses several states.
Both won their respective age groups at the sectional competition held Oct. 20 in Riverton.
Shayla, the daughter of Jason and Shalene Cheatham, won the local competition with a combined distance on her punt, pass and kick of 131 feet. Her mom, Shalene, didn’t know for certain what her total distance was at sectionals — she thought it was around 221 feet — just that “she did really well compared to what she did here.”
Shayla, who had never participated in PPK before this year, is now one of four qualifiers listed in the 10- and 11-year-old age on the official PPK website. The others are Lauren Law, Remy Minton and Mackenzie Rask.
Shalene said she doesn’t expect her daughter to go overboard practicing for the next round, outside of her usual activities, which include getting pointers Jeff Hunt, a fifth-grade teacher and assistant football coach. “She’s just doing it for fun,” she said, “and not treating it like it’s some big deal.”
Shayla enjoys all sports, particularly volleyball and basketball. But she’s also a big football fan — and her favorite team, as luck would have it, is the Broncos. Ditto for Shalene, who said she has wanted to see a Broncos game in person since she was a kid.
“It was just never one of those expenses that took priority” over the other financial needs of the family,” she said. “Funny how things work out. I take care of my kid — and now she’s taking me to a Broncos game.”
For the Hills, Dusty and Missy, it’s a case of been there, done that, although they are every bit as excited now as they were when their oldest son, Riley, went on a PPK run that carried him all the way to the national competition.
This time, it’s Brock’s turn. A seventh grader, he’s listed as one of four qualifiers in the 12- and 13-year-old age group, along with Elias Espinoza, Tyson Madson and Luke Martin. Like Shayla, he’ll be competing Dec. 8 at the Bronco’s Dove Valley training complex.
Brock turned in a big effort at sectionals, finishing with a total combined distance of 341 feet, 2 inches. He was consistent across the board, with a pass that sailed 113-8, a punt of 115-10 and a kick of 111-8.
Missy said Brock was Riley’s “biggest practice partner” in the two years when he was gearing up for the team competition in Denver — so in that way, it’s rewarding to see him now get his own chance on the big stage.
“I think he’s pretty excited,” Missy said. “Brock is a little more reserved than Riley, but he’s into this competition. He didn’t practice much before sectionals, but he still improved by something like 50 feet.”
Missy said both of her boys said before the sectional round that didn’t care if they made it to nationals — they just wanted to make it to Denver “so to they could watch Peyton play,” a reference to the Denver quarterback.
Mission accomplished. Missy said PPK provides two game tickets for each qualifier — and they are now trying to find three more seats so that the entire family can see the game. With the Broncos sitting at 8-1 and playing well, tickets are a lot harder to come by now than they were when Riley went.
The top four high scorers in each of the 10 age divisions from all 32 team championship events advance to the PPK national championships, which will take place at a January NFL playoff game.
As a postscript to the story, Shalene Cheatham asked that Sara Schlattmann and Big Horn Federal be recognized for providing trophies for the local competition. Had they not done so, the top finishers would have simply received a certificate from PPK.
“It was very generous on their part,” she said.