ELKO — Many folks live out their lives without ever fulfilling dreams of traveling to pristine locations or crossing things off their bucket list.
Elko High School junior Lincoln Ratliff will not be one of those people; granted the opportunity to play a game he loves on the Gold Coast of Australia.
Ratliff has been selected by Down Under Sports — which was founded in 1989 by New Zealanders George and Shelley O’Scanlon — to participate in the 32nd Down Under Bowl.
While the Down Under International Games consist of several sports — boys and girls basketball, cross country, track and field, golf and volleyball — the O’Scanlons fell in love with American football and dreamed of promoting the sport throughout Australia and New Zealand.
In the 2019 Down Under Bowl, high school football players from 33 states were chosen to compete both with and against Australian and New Zealand teams.
The round-robin sort of format consisted of four teams, three primarily including athletes from the United States — joining forces with a few Australians — and a team from Zealand.
Due to the extreme costs of international travel and a weeklong vacation with meals, hotel room and extracurricular expenses, Ratliff — like other worthy invitees — will need help with fundraising.
Donations can be made online through the Down Under Sports website at https://downundersports.com/payment/VKZ-HNG with all proceeds benefiting Ratliff directly, each athlete given their own personal sponsor page.
Ratliff’s journey to the 2020 Down Under International Games will begin with a departure on June 28 — crossing the International Date Line — arriving in Australia on June 30.
While several days of the trip will include chances for sightseeing, photos with koalas and trips to wildlife sanctuaries; a healthy portion of the time will also be dedicated to football — even rugby as well.
Ratliff’s first football game will take place July 3, while a beach rugby session is planned for July 4 — a much different way than he has ever celebrated Independence Day — his second game on the gridiron scheduled for July 6 and his departure planned for July 7.
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In his first season of varsity football at Elko, Ratliff rushed for 230 yards on 41 carries — averaging 5.6 yards per tote — and scored a touchdown.
He also caught five balls for 64 yards and completed his lone pass attempt of the season for a 19-yard gain.
On special teams, Ratliff kicked off an average of 44.7 yards on 11 boots, racking up 492 yards.
His 13 punts traveled an average of 30 yards, posting a long of 45.
He returned five kicks for 69 yards and totaled 57 yards on four punt returns.
Defensively, he tallied 32 tackles (25 solo) and made an interception.
Down Under Sports’ Mission Statement
Down Under Sports believes that sport is the international language common to all the countries and people around the world and that it can help remove cultural and international barriers. Therefore, the mission of Down Under Sports is to promote the growth, development and self-esteem of the individual athlete through sport; to raise the level and awareness and competition to the benefit of both the host country and the participating athlete; to forge friendships that bridge the gap of both distance and time, through mutual competition that promotes health and sportsmanship.
Down Under Sports’ Vision
“Our vision is to continue to carry out the dream of our founders: to unite continents through sports. We will continue to provide athletes the opportunity to experience the culture, beauty and grandeur of the land down under, all within the framework of spirited and intense competition. We will continue to give athletes and their families, an experience that they will cherish forever.”
“We are committed to providing all of our participants and their supporters the experience of a lifetime. We work year-round to provide a safe, culturally rich and competitive sports tournament to all those who participate in our program.”