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Australian experience worth it for Johnsons

Competing in a different country is something that doesn't happen often for area athletes.

For two Mitchell football players, the opportunity to play in Australia was the experience of a lifetime.

Gramm and Mitch Johnson were invited to compete in the Down Under Bowl in Australia from June 28 to July 6. The Down Under Bowl is an event put on by Down Under Sports and it features five American teams and one Australian team, with the American teams split into different regions.

Both Gramm and Mitch played on the Midwest region team, which won the championship during the football camp. The camp featured two games for every team and the team with the most wins and points scored was the winner.

Mitch, who will be a senior for the Kernels this season, said the experience was special, both on the football field and off.

"Being able to represent America in a different country was an honor," Mitch said. "We were able to show them what it is like to play football in America, and I learned a lot about the Australian culture."

Mitch, who was the Kernels' leading rusher in 2013 with 520 yards and four touchdowns, and older brother, Gramm, received letters in the mail inviting each of them to the camp. Mitchell said playing against good players from other places will help him in his final season with Mitchell.

"I think just playing with a lot of top tier athletes, guys that will be going to D-I schools, will help me as a player," Mitch said. "Playing against high competition always helps you become a better player."

Looking ahead to the Kernels' season opener against Yankton on Aug. 30, Mitch said he has high expectations for the Mitchell High School football team this year.

"We're a senior-heavy team. Hopefully we can get some things done this year," he said. "Mitchell and Yankton has been an interesting match up the last couple of years, and this year shouldn't be any different. It should be a competitive game through and through."

For Gramm, the experience was bittersweet because it was the last time he will be wearing the helmet and pads, as he graduated from Mitchell in May.

"It was nice to represent the Midwest region and more importantly South Dakota," said Gramm, who added two other South Dakota players attended the camp with him and Mitch. "It was fun, but at the same time it was kinda sad."

Gramm will be attending South Dakota State University in the fall and plans to study manufacturing and try to make the SDSU track team. He said it has been fun to be able to tell people they won the championship game in Australia.

"We learned about the difference between American rules and Australian rules in football," Gramm said. "The Australian rules are a lot different than ours. We also watched a lot of rugby down there."