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Leading From The Middle

The following feature appeared in the Nov. 1, 2008 edition of Army Football Gameday versus Air Force

Like a lot of people, Frank Scappaticci didn’t know a lot about the United States Military Academy. As a student at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, N.Y., Scappaticci was keeping all of his options open. An all-state linebacker, he was being recruited by a variety of schools.

Army reached out to Frank, and his twin brother, Jon. Their mom, Mary Ann, encouraged a visit to West Point to see what it had to offer.

Frank took his visit, spent some time around the players and then signed to go school.

Twenty starts and more than 150 career tackles later, it turned out to be a great decision.

The Scappaticci brothers both entered the Academy as freshmen in 2005. Frank played in just one game, against Navy, and then filled a heavy reserve role behind Barrett Scruggs his host when he visited West Point -- at linebacker during his sophomore season. Jon transferred to Fordham but Frank stayed and has been hitting opponents since.

“My mom knew a lot about West Point and encouraged me and my brother to visit,” Frank said. “I was real skeptical at first because I didn’t know much about West Point. I came here, had a great time with the guys and then committed. It was tough. When I got here, there were some doubts but over the last couple of years, I have really grown to like it here a lot. I am real proud of my decision to come here. I have made some great friends and I don’t take that for granted, I appreciate it every day.”

Something else he appreciates is his role as one of four team captains. Scappaticci, John Plumstead, Mike Wright and Collin Mooney all wear the C’ on their jerseys.

“I’m really proud of the fact that I am a captain,” Scappaticci said. “I’m thankful I was given the opportunity. It was one of the proudest moments of my life when my teammates voted for me.”

The captains don’t just handle the coin toss, which is called by Plumstead. They meet with head coach Stan Brock to discuss anything and everything and have tried to set an example in practice each and every day and “winning” that particular day.

“That’s one of the things that all of us as captains have focused on is making sure we prepare well,” Scappaticci said. “That has had a lot to do with our improvements. Everyone is ready to play a game but as long as you focus on getting ready and having great practices, everything else will take care of itself. After the New Hampshire game, we had a meeting and said enough was enough.  We knew we had to make a chance or we would continue to have poor performances. I’m excited for the future. I know we’re getting better and we’ve earned it by working hard.”

Scappaticci and the players have credited Brock with being open to their ideas and allowing them to have a say.

“This whole season, whenever one of the captains has a suggestion, coach Brock is really open to it,” Scappaticci said. “He makes the players take ownership of the team and I feel like that’s one of the reasons we are taking more pride in preparing for games.”

A 6-foot-1, 224-pound Management major, Scappaticci is a two-year starter and leads the defense in three statistical categories.

Through eight games, Scappaticci tops the team with 57 tackles, including a team-best 31 primary tackles. He has three of the team’s six interceptions -- one he returned for a touchdown as well as two sacks, five tackles for loss, two pass breakups and has also forced a fumble from his middle linebacker position.

He has registered at least four tackles in every game as the Black Knights have rebounded from an 0-4 start. Now sitting at 3-5, the Black Knights will look to reclaim the Commander in Chief’s Trophy beginning with today’s game against Air Force.

Scappaticci has two double-digit tackles against Texas A&M and Tulane and posted nine in the win against Eastern Michigan. He picked off two passes in the win at Tulane, returning one for a 35-yard touchdown, to help Army to its first win of the season.

“I remember dropping back and the receiver was coming across middle. I was watching the quarterback and one of our linebackers bumped the receiver so he was off balance. I broke for the ball, intercepted it and no one was near me so it wasn’t like I had to run all that hard to score.”

Mirroring the intensity of their position coach Robert Lyles, Army’s linebackers have played a huge role in the team’s success. Scappaticci and Plumstead have started all eight games while Stephen Anderson moved into a starting role five games ago when Josh McNary was moved to defensive end. While the defensive line and secondary have been shuffled because of injuries, the linebacking corps has been consistent.

The Black Knights are allowing just 117 rushing yards and 187 passing yards on the season.

“I don’t think any of the linebackers would be where we are without coach Lyles,” Scappaticci said. “Personally, I am not the best athlete so he helped me get better by using technique. He is a tremendous coach and the linebackers will all be great players in the future because of him.”

Scappaticci has started the last 20 games and now has 157 career tackles. He made his first start in 2007 against Akron and is expected to be there in the middle this afternoon.

“I remember when I was a freshman there were certain expectations for me and how I should play,” Scappaticci said. “I didn’t meet those expectations that fall but the spring of my freshman season I made a lot of improvements and felt I played well.”

His work on and off the field led to more playing time. He was second on the team with 89 tackles as a junior and now boasts 11 career tackles for losses.

This season, Scappaticci has notched career bests in tackles with 12 in the win at Tulane, tackles for loss with a pair last week against Louisiana Tech and has posted five sacks and forced a fumble.

“He studies his opponents very well,” said Plumstead. “Frank spends a lot of time watching film and is a very smart football player. He uses his instincts to his advantage. He helps Steve (Anderson) and me out on everything, including down and distances and tendencies and positioning.”

A Dix Hills, N.Y. native, Scappaticci credits the friendships with his fellow linebackers as one of the reasons for their success.

“We have great camaraderie,” said Scappaticci. “Steve (Anderson) is a very emotional player and you feed off his energy. John and I keep each other in check. We all play off each other pretty well, plus we hang out on weekends and are really good friends.”

Ryan Yanoshak is an Assistant Director of Athletic Communications at West Point.

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