Lineman was part of an American tour of football players in Australia earlier this month
BATTLE GROUND — Brandon Abt promised he would be at practice for the Freedom Bowl Classic by Tuesday.
Oh, and he had a pretty good excuse for missing Monday’s practice.
He was busy playing in a football game more than 7,000 miles away from Clark County.
A recent graduate of Evergreen, Abt played center for the Dingoes in the Down Under Bowl, a series of American football games in Australia, played by American high school players.
Abt and the Dingoes won the Down Under title by going 2-0, with the final game in their 10-day trip being played on Monday. From there, he hopped a flight to Canada, and then to Portland. He took a five-hour rest, then found his way to Battle Ground High School for Tuesday’s late afternoon practice.
“I am very much committed to this game,” Abt said of the Freedom Bowl. “If I say I’m going to be here, I’m going to be here.”
Even if he happened to be on the other side of the world the previous day. OK, with the international dateline, he probably played in Monday’s game about 36 hours before Tuesday’s practice in the states. So he is not quite a time traveler, but he certainly had quite the time traveling in the past 14 days or so.
All worth it, he said.
He played the game he loves in Australia, and now he gets one more game with many of his Evergreen teammates along with the rest of the East all-stars for Saturday’s Freedom Bowl. This event, at McKenzie Stadium, features recent graduates from Southwest Washington high schools and raises money for Shriners charities.
But before the Freedom Bowl, Abt had to go all Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
He was one of two players from the state who went on the excursion. The games were played in Brisbane, more than 500 miles north of Sydney. Of course, in Australia, it’s more like 900 kilometers.
“It was mostly about going to play football and meeting new people,” Abt said.
The Americans were split up into four teams: The Dingoes, the Brumbies, the Crocodiles, and the Kiwis. Fun names, indeed.
Abt said they were treated well, but it was not like they were rock stars or anything. Australians know about American football.
“It was a little bit overwhelming, about to spend 10 days in a country I’ve never been in before,” he said. “Once I got there, then it was great.”
Abt used his free time to jet ski and go to a wildlife sanctuary. He saw kangaroos.
“They weren’t as big as I thought they were,” he said.
He also saw real dingoes and crocodiles.
It can be spendy to play for a touring team, but Abt said there are options. He said he would recommend a trip like this to any high school football player.
“Take it,” he said. “It might be a lot of money but you can fund-raise for it.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime. You can trash talk on the field and get back to the hotel and be friends. Just an amazing experience.”
There might be a little bit of trash talk this weekend, too, at the Freedom Bowl Classic. The players understand, though, that this is a game to raise money for charity. The result on the field is not the priority.
For Abt, it could be his final organized football game. He might start college at a two-year program. If he goes to a four-year school, he said he will try to be a walk-on with the football team. But with the future uncertain, he is making sure Saturday’s game will be a memorable one.
“I’m definitely going to play my best,” Abt said. “I’m going to focus on having fun. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose.”
But he is here, ready to play … again this summer. This time, in his home country and on his home field.
2019 Freedom Bowl Classic
What: All-star football game for recent high school graduates from Southwest Washington, in an event that raises funds for Shriners charities.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: McKenzie Stadium in east Vancouver
Also: There are two Clark County Youth Football games, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Cost: Tickets cost $10
In case you missed it: Our feature on West all-star Akilotoa Kaumatule: https://www.clarkcountytoday.com/sports/freedom-bowl-bays-akilotoa-kaumatule-ready-to-represent-again/