UNION, N.J. -- Two recently graduated South Plainfield High School seniors partook in the annual Autoland Classic and represented Middlesex County on Thursday night at Kean University.
Zach DelVecchio started fullback on offense and was a captain and Dondre Tate started at cornerback on the defensive side of the ball.
Middlesex County topped Union County, 23-7, for its second win in a row and now leads the all-time series 16-10.
“It felt good to play in the game,” DelVecchio said. “It was for charity and everything like that. It means a lot to me because it was my last game and I was able to give it to something in a way.”
Proceeds from the game benefits the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities in Edison, and the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside. Over $682,000 has been raised thus far over the years.
Earlier in the week, players and cheerleaders from Union County went to the Children’s Specialized Hospital while those from Middlesex County made a trip to the Lakeview School, which was an eye-opening experience.
“It was pretty good. I love giving back to the community,” DelVecchio said. “It was a nice school. It touched me seeing kids that can’t really walk or talk and stuff learn and everything. It gave me another perspective on life.”
DelVecchio said he was glad he had a teammate from his town to share the experience of the entire week with him.
“It was cool that I had Dondre here with me,” he said. “I wish I had two more, but they didn’t make it.”
North Brunswick’s Aaron Ahr, who won the Most Valuable Player award, nailed field goals of 30 and 28 yards on Middlesex’s first two drives.
After Rahway’s Ja'Kir Robinson put Union up 7-6 with a touchdown with 10 seconds left before halftime, Ahr converted from 34 yards out to give Middlesex the lead for good at 9-7 with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter.
St. Joseph (Metuchen) running back Jordan Davis scored a 13-yard touchdown to widen Middlesex’s lead to 16-7 with 9:43 to go in the fourth. That score happened because DelVecchio converted a fourth-and-7 with a screen pass from South River quarterback Mike DeSantis.
DelVecchio caught the short pass and rumbled down the left side for a first down. Davis scored one play later.
“I was aiming for the sticks. I did what I could,” DelVecchio said. “I just wanted to touch the ball in this game at least once.”
Knowing that it is his last football game at the high school level - and maybe ever - DelVecchio said it is bittersweet.
“Yeah it is. I finally accepted the fact yesterday that this was going to be my last game. It’s going to be hard to let the game go,” he said.
Next up on the horizon is Rutgers University, where he will wrestle for head coach Scott Goodale and co. DelVecchio said he will most likely redshirt this upcoming season and move up to heavyweight for the 2020-21 campaign.
“I need to work on getting more muscle than anything,” said DelVecchio, the 220-pound NJSIAA state champion this past winter. “I know I can be more agile than them. I proved that in high school. I think I can tire them out in the third period. It’s going to be tough, but it’ll be good.”
DelVecchio’s older brother, Scott, wrestled at Rutgers and was an All-American as a senior in 2018.
“It’s pretty cool. Everyone knows me already,” Zach DelVecchio said of the team and coaches. “They’re like my second family. Usually when you go somewhere new you don’t know anybody, but I feel like I fit in there.”
Jillian Bengivenga from SPHS was also a cheerleader on the Middlesex County sidelines.
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.