PIQUA — Ashlynn Coppess and her father, Monty, have a shared love of the Cincinnati Bengals football team.
On Sunday, they took experience to a whole new level.
Ashlynn, 13, was of four girls in the 12-13 age group competing in the NFL’s Pass, Punt & Kick team championship competition at Paul Brown Stadium at the Cincinnati Bengals’ home game Sunday.
The competition was be held at 9 a.m. and all competitors returned for the halftime ceremony at the Bengals game.
“She attended her first Bengals game when she was four years old,” Monty said, beaming. “This will definitely be our most memorable game.”
Coppess has been competing for three years.
Her first two years, she won the local competition before finishing second at sectionals and just missing the trip to Paul Brown Stadium.
“The first year, I was the youngest girl in my age group, so it was tough,” she said. “To be honest, I never expected to make it out of sectionals.”
But football is a game she has always loved.
“She was a defensive tackle on the fifth and sixth grade team,” Monty said. “Actually, the coach was upset she didn’t play this year. They want her to play next year (in eighth grade at Piqua Junior High).”
The seventh grader has improved each year and was confident going into this year’s competition.
“I work on it (passing, punting and kicking) all the time,” she said. “Passing is my favorite. And I work with bands (to strengthen her muscles).”
So, she made her dad a promise this year that she would get him down to the team championships at Paul Brown Stadium.
“I did the Punt, Pass and Kick when I was a kid,” Monty said. “I never made it out of sectionals. She made me that promise and it was great to see it happen.”
It started with another win at the local competition, followed by a win at the sectional competition at Trotwood.
“I was just so happy, I ran to find my dad and tell him I did it,” Ashlynn said.
Now she will be up against the best of the best.
All 32 NFL teams have team competitions running through Dec. 19.
There are four competitors in each age group — so Coppess is one of the 128 girls competing for four spots at nationals in her age group.
“That is pretty tough,” Monty said about the competition. “She is going to have to really do well to make it to nationals.”
Already, one girl in her age group has a 287-feet total, while fourth place right now is 267 feet.
Coppess’ winning distance at sectionals was 212 feet.
“We have been working at it and she is already doing better than that,” Monty said. “She is at 240 right now and I am hoping to get her to 260 by Sunday.”
Ashlynn said she is getting the nerves out of her system.
“I am nervous right now,” she said. “I think once I get down there, I won’t be that nervous. All the teachers and students have been congratulating me (at Piqua Junior High). We get to go in the locker room at Paul Brown Stadium and they are going to bring us out at halftime.”
That should bring her some more attention.
“There is a good chance they might show some of it on TV,” Monty said. “And she will definitely be up on the Big Screen. It is going to be something.”
A day a father and daughter who have shared a love of the Bengals will never forget.
Rob Kiser is sports editor for the Piqua Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-333