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Days 3 & 4: Young Somerville Football Player Learns Valuable Lessons at The Cotton Bowl

Somerville's Tristan Garcia, left, hangs out at The Cotton Bowl with Bret Cooper, founder and organizer of theJunior Academic All-American Bowl. Credits: Courtesy Brionne Castillo
Tristan Garcia, at left, visits the concourse with his teammates on the fourth level of the AT&T Stadium where the Cotton Bowl was played. Credits: Courtesy Brionna Castillo
The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled over the Michigan State Spaprtans 38-0 at The Cotton Bowl. Credits: Courtesy Brionna Castillo

DALLAS, TX – One of the more lopsided scores recorded in recent College Bowl history will serve as a valuable lesson for Tristan Garcia when he straps on his helmet and laces up his cleats to play in a national bowl game for young athletes.

Garcia, a sixth-grader at Somerville Middle School in New Jersey and dozens of other young athletes from around the country took time out from training for their own Jan. 2 bowl game to take in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington on New Year’s Eve.

The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled over the Michigan State Spartans by a score of 38-0 in the nationally-televised bowl game.

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The 12-year-old has spent the last several days in Texas preparing for an elite football showcase, the Bret Cooper Junior Academic All-American Bowl Game. He is one of 60 players selected from a field of 30,000 nationwide. For the past three years he has played with the Somerville Branchburg United Bulldogs.

Perched on the fourth level of the massive stadium – home of the Dallas Cowboys – Garcia watched intently as the Crimson Tide shredded the Spartans’ defense.

The outcome reinforced what the coaches have been teaching the young players as they prepare for their showcase – play offense like Alabama and don’t play defense like Michigan.

Garcia plays on both sides of the ball, as a wide receiver, his preferred position, and on the defensive line.

Academics have also been stressed, with former college and NFL players as guest motivational speakers.

Garcia is a member of the East Coast All-stars, who will face the West Coast All-Stars in the showcase Saturday morning.

Tristan has been in Dallas with his mother, Brionna Castillo and his grandmother, Lorayo Allen-Castillo.

“The Cotton Bowl was definitely the experience of a lifetime, with every seat in the arena filled,” she said. “We were told there were 90,000 people there. We were on the 4th level Alabama side and had a clear view of the field and players. The energy was so high for the This game that I can't even imagine what it feels like to watch the Dallas Cowboys play in their home stadium,” she added.

Practices, team meetings and other activities have kept the young athletes busy, with a break for a Hawaiian Luau Thursday night. The Cotton Bowl was Friday’s highlight.

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