Panthers linemen Nic Reyes and Tory Ramirez, both seniors, have been invited to compete in the Down Under Games in July, when athletes from America compete against the gridiron stars of Australia and New Zealand.
If Reyes and Ramirez can go, they’ll represent Northern California. Ramirez was a first-team all-Bay Valley Athletic League selection on both offense and defense. Reyes earned second-team all-league honors for the Panthers, who enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory.
“It’s a really big honor to just be noticed by that kind of program,” Reyes said. “It would mean a lot, just to be able to experience the whole Australian lifestyle and meet new people from all over the world.”
Down Under Sports organizes the games. The company also holds competitions for basketball, cheer and dance, cross country, track and field, volleyball and wrestling. The trip includes more than just football games. Athletes get a week in Australia to play, tour Sydney, observe Australian wildlife and participate in combine-style activities.
For a little more money, players get to stop in Hawaii after the tournament for a three-day retreat. The entire package costs about $4,000 and covers airfare, a hotel room, ground transportation, tourist attractions, uniforms and food.
“This is my whole goal right now,” Ramirez said. “Every possible day, I’ve been going out to businesses.”
Ramirez and Reyes have been asking relatives and friends for donations, as well as going door-to-door for money. Ramirez said he was sitting in class one day when a teacher gave him a letter. Upon opening it, he found his invitation to the Down Under Games, and it has been on his mind ever since.
The teammates made a pact to each other that they’d find a way to go and close out their senior year with some fanfare. The trip also has special meaning for Ramirez, as it will be the first time he’s left the country. “All day, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to experience that,” he said. “What better way to bang out senior year with a cool senior trip while doing something I love?”
People who wish to help Reyes and Ramirez can donate online at www.downundersports.com. Those who donate directly to the website can enter a contest for their own trip to Australia and Hawaii.
Mountain Mike’s Pizza, 3612 Lone Tree Way in Antioch, will hold a fundraiser for the two Panthers on Thursday, April 5. Diners who express their desire to help Ramirez and Reyes will get 20 percent of their tab forwarded to the Down Under effort.