By BOB PARASILITI
11:16 PM EST, November 30, 2012
Robert Fink Jr. will be trying to get things straight by taking a different angle.
For years, Smithsburg’s Fink has tried to advance in the national Punt, Pass and Kick tournament by taking on the competition straight on. But now, in his third attempt to get out of the team competition phase, he’s going to take a different route.
On a whim, Fink has adopted a soccer-style approach to placekicking the ball, which has produced far better results as he prepares to vie as one of three 12-13 year olds to represent the Washington Redskins on the national level.
“I just tried it one time and it was a good feeling,” Fink said. “I wasn’t practicing it. I just saw all the NFL kickers doing it for years and just decided to try. I think it will make me more accurate to get on the measuring tape.”
It will be the third time in four years that Fink has reached the Redskins finals, which include participants from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. This time he will be competing on Monday, during halftime of the Redskins’ game against the New York Giants at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
He competed twice in the 10-11 age group, but failed to advance, before missing last season. Fink came back by winning a local competition, sponsored by the Redskins in Wheaton, Md., before qualifying at a sectional in Landover to reach the team’s final four.
A number of local qualifying events have popped up over the years, including one in Hagerstown sponsored by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Punt, Pass and Kick is an annual national skills event sponsored by the National Football League Youth Football program.
The competition is open to boys and girls from ages 6 to 15, divided into six age categories. The competitors are scored on the cumulative distance and accuracy of a pass, a punt and a kickoff. The lack of accuracy — any kick which strays to the left or right of the measuring tape — is subtracted from the actual distance of the throw or kick.
Robert has shown distance in the kicking departments — helped by a soccer background — but has been penalized by his accuracy control. It prompted the move to the sidewinding, soccer-style approach.
He qualified at the sectional with a combined total of more than 330 feet in the three disciplines. He had one kickoff attempt which hit squarely on the tape.
“I’m trying not to think about it as much,” said Robert, who played and kicked for the Smithsburg Jets of the Washington County Junior Football League this season. “I’m trying to relax more and focus. My dad pressures me a lot. I’m just focusing on kicking and getting everything out of my mind.”
The champion in each age group will be placed on a national list of all 32 NFL franchises. The four highest scoring team champions will advance to compete for the national title on Jan. 14 or 15, 2013 at an AFC or NFC playoff site.
Two Hagerstown boys have advanced in the Ravens’ team final on Dec. 16 at M&T Bank Stadium. Cameron Owens is in the 8-9 year old boys’ field while Joey Fisher will compete in the boys 14-15 final four. Brittany Buckwalter, of Chambersburg, Pa., has advanced to the girls 10-11 final four.
Although Robert didn’t qualify for the PP&K last year, the Fink family was still represented in the competition as brother Brandon Fink won the Redskins competition in the 8-9 age group. Brandon didn’t participate this year because of foot surgery.
Still, it gives Robert some added motivation, something more than just advancing to the finals.
“This is going to be big for me this year because I want to match what my brother did,” Robert said.
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