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MONTCLAIR COBRAS FULL OF STARS, SAYS GIFTED ATHLETE-ACTOR-ACADEMIC

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By TEMPLE LI

The kid is represented by top talent agent BMG for acting. To date, he has ten movies under his belt. Just Friday, A Karate Christmas Miracle was released. This holiday/mystery flick stars the kid, as well as an Oscar nominee (Eric Roberts) and karate movie icon (Martin Kove of “Cobra Kai” and The Karate Kid). Next month, the kid plays another lead role in another star-laden movie, A Wrestling Christmas Miracle. Kove again co-stars in this new movie, joined by the likes of Emmy nominee Gilbert Gottfried (Problem Child), Golden Globe nominee Jimmie Walker (“Good Times”), Michael Winslow (Police Academy), Todd Bridges (“Different Strokes”), and Scott Schwartz (A Christmas Story)—along with A Karate Christmas Miracle alums Julie McCullough, Candy Fox, Joe Wooley, and Buddy Fitzpatrick. This acting resume is quite impressive for a kid.

Also on Friday, the kid got his fifth-grade first semester report card. And he earned straight A’s. The same as he did for his fourth-grade final marks. A photographic memory has been asset in educational endeavors. Being a perennial straight-A student is quite impressive for a kid.

The kid is just entering wrestling season, after winning over 80% of his tournament matches during the 2019 off-season, where he medaled in every single tournament. First, second, and third place trophies cover the walls of his bedroom. Some of his victorious matches can be seen here: a 20-second pin, a 12 – 1 victory, a  48-second pin, another first period pin, and an 11 – 1 win. Being a standout wrestler is quite impressive for a kid.

Last week, the kid played in the Garden State AYF football league state championship game, where he was a captain for his Montclair Cobras team. In 2018, he was the team’s Lineman of the Year. In 2019, he was an absolute tour de force: on defense, terrorizing opposing teams’ backfields, and on offense a consistent powerhouse blocker. His 2019 football highlights reel tells it all. Being an outstanding football player is quite impressive for a kid.

Doing ALL of the above is nearly impossible for a kid. But it is a reality for media-dubbed Renaissance Boy, Mario Del Vecchio. An 11-year-old, very confident student-athlete and more – who movie co-star Julie McCullough called “a little girls’ dream” in an article in New Jersey daily newspaper The Record – Del Vecchio has continually expressed gratitude to others in connection with his successes. Take his recently-ended 2019 football campaign.

Del Vecchio, who dons jersey #44, was relentless as a defensive tackle. He led the team by recording 10 1/2 QB sacks, seemingly breaking through the opposing team’s offensive line in just about every play during the second half of the season. The sacks were complemented by constant pressures of the quarterback and running back tackles, as well as multiple forced fumbles. On the offensive side, Del Vecchio was the model guard. Block. Block. Block. And some pretty brutal ones. An atypical lineman – Del Vecchio has the build of a halfback (but is smaller than most of his lineman counterparts) – he’s a rock of lean muscle, whose physical and mental strengths power him, along with surprising quickness. But the kid has this to say:

“Football is a team sport. Our entire team has a number of great players. If you want to see some amazing players, look at Baby and Donavin.”

There, Del Vecchio was taking about Montclair Cobras QB/LB Zakhir “Baby” Huff and RB/LB Donavin Livingston. A review of the season’s games indeed proves to showcase the most outstanding of athletes in Huff and Livingston.

Huff’s small stature is deceptive, to say the least. Wickedly fast, an informal tally renders that he rushed, as a quarterback, for over 1,000 yards in a season that has about half the games of the NFL. He had several break-out, 50+ yard TD runs, where he couldn’t be caught by pursuing opposing defenses. When defenders were nearby, Huff, sporting jersey #1, often delivered dazzling moves a la Saquon Barkley, Barry Sanders, and Eric Dickerson, mystically eluding the would-be tacklers. This resulted in more touchdowns.

A well-rounded quarterback, Huff can also pass the ball with great talent, recording multiple TD passes to favorite receivers Roman Lentz and Nasir Chance-Pennix. On defense, “steady”, “fast”, and very “hard-hitting” equally describe Huff and fellow linebacker Donavin Livingston.

Both Huff and Livingston registered scores of tackles in every game of the season. And the duo nailed opposing quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers on any part of the field. If the offensive ball carriers came the way of Livingston and Huff, they got tackled. If they didn’t come their way, they still got tackled. Hearing the cracking of their hard hits was the norm in the Montclair Cobras stands.

Livingston, like Huff, was also an offensive juggernaut. A power back in the mold of Jim Brown, who has great bursts of speed, Livingston, wearing jersey #2, was the Cobras go-to halfback, who rushed for several touchdowns. Hundred-plus rushing efforts were regular game occurrences for Livingston, who also has great receiving talents.

In the state championship game against the Bergen County Stars, Del Vecchio and his co-captains Huff and Livingston played tough, but the Cobras took a 19 – 12 loss. “Our whole team played great in that game,” Del Vecchio said. “We played great together for the entire season. Bubba, Tyree, Nas, Roman, Christopher, everyone,” he added, referring to other teammates. “We got each other’s backs.”

“I was really emotional after we didn’t win in that championship game last weekend. We all were,” Del Vecchio said. “One of the older Cobras came up to me when we were taking pictures. He could see I was upset, and he gave me words of encouragement. I was so emotional, I can’t remember who it was, but I want to thank him for taking the time to talk to me, a younger kid, and it was right before his own game.” All of the Montclair Cobras teams, 10U, 12U, and 13U, were in the state championship games last Sunday, playing their arch-rival Bergen County Stars; they are New Jersey’s two leading programs. The Cobras 12U team was victorious, and they move onto the regionals in Maryland – joined by the Bergen County Stars 10U and 13U squads. Winners at the regionals go onto the AYF Super Bowl in Florida.

“My dad has been the greatest help and inspiration for me in all my sports and acting,” Del Vecchio said, “And my mom is always right there, encouraging me.” And then he spoke about his Cobras coaches, with substantial praise: “They only care about one thing, and that’s making us better players. It has worked for so many of us. I’m a much better player because of them. And I couldn’t ask for better football coaches. The Cobras coaches know football like pro coaches. I really mean that. But they also care about us. They really want us to win, but it’s not all about winning, if you know what I mean. They care about us as people.”

Del Vecchio was taking about his coaches Glenn Jenkins, Devon Livingston, Jerry Diggs, and Steven Huff. And the head of the Cobras football program, Wil Young. He was talking about men who apparently want to help make good kids into good men. Del Vecchio said, “Now that’s impressive.”

Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?

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