Berger wins Punt, Pass & Kick title in Oakland
As far as Makez Berger is concerned, there couldn’t have been a more memorable way to celebrate his 13th birthday.
Not only did Makez — pronounced Mack-ez — attend his first NFL game Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum, it was a thriller in which the Raiders pulled out an exciting 35-32 win at the wire over the Carolina Panthers.
Oh, and by the way, the Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School eighth grader came through with an exciting win in his own right in the Punt, Pass & Kick sectional boys 12-13 age division.
“This was one of the best and most fun experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “Then I got to watch the game … our seats were 18 rows away (from the field).”
It wasn’t perfect. First of all, Makez is a Pittsburgh Steelers fans. And while his total distance of 262-feet, 3-inches was good enough to win the sectional competition and he finished ninth overall in results nationally, he missed qualifying for a spot in the final four that would have qualified for the national finals of the NFL hosted event.
“I just wish I had done better with my kicking,” Makez said. “I was good with my passing and punting; I had a lead, but then I had to hang on at the end.”
The outcome was similar to Sunday’s game. The Raiders dominated the first half and went to the locker room with a 24-7 lead, only to see the defending NFC champion Panthers rally to take a 32-24 lead. The Raiders finally won on Sebastian Janikowski’s 23-yard field goal with 3:20 left to play.
His highlight came at the outset of the competition with a passing distance of 124 feet, 3-inches. It was the third best passing mark of all participants in the boys 12-13 age group nationwide.
Makez was also strong with his punting with a distance of 99-feet, 10-inches. His 38-feet, 1-inch in the kicking phase of the competition was not what he hoped for, though.
“Normally, my kick is 80 to 90 feet,” he said. “If my kick had been better, I might have been in the top four.”
By the way, Makez played quarterback for the Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department Jets, who finished as league champions this fall. Looking ahead, he plans to pursue football next year at Douglas High School.
“Football is my favorite sport,” he said.
Even though the Steelers were not on the field, what he saw on the field left an impression.
“They’re huge,” Makez said. “I couldn’t believe how big Cam Newton (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) and Greg Olsen (6-5, 255) are.”
Other Carson Valley qualifiers participated at the sectional event in Oakland, where Lucy Keith placed third in the girls 8-9 division.
Kyle Koontz also took fourth-place in his boys 10-11 division. Kyle played for the Douglas County flag football league champion Cowboys.