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Batavia football's Scaccia flourishing on, off the field

Published: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 5:33 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Batavia senior Anthony Scaccia (left) relaxes with his older brother, Andrew, outside their home. Anthony, who was adopted at age 8, is one of four Scaccia siblings.

BATAVIA – Frank Scaccia can boast with the best of football dads, and his son, Anthony, has given him plenty of reason to do so.

Those finicky college coaches have made it clear they only want 3 to 5 minutes worth of video, and "Pops" would love to go longer when compiling his son's highlights for prospective recruiters.

Scaccia supplied his dad a glut of YouTube-friendly runs last year, and many more are expected starting a week from tonight when Scaccia begins his senior season with the Batavia football team.

Dad might be rankled that he can't dig deeper into the vault of Scaccia's dazzling moves, but he's at least heartened that his son approves of his handiwork.

"I've been lucky, he's liking my stuff," Frank Scaccia said. "Except for the music."

Since moving in with his new family at age 6 – and then officially becoming a Scaccia at 8, when he was adopted – life has become increasingly harmonious for Scaccia, allowing the Bulldogs' electrifying running back to feel at ease, on and off the football field.

A difficult early childhood now long in his rearview mirror, life is falling into place nicely for the 5-foot-7, 155 pound dynamo.

Comfortably crazy

Scaccia found out quickly that his new family was, as he puts it, "not normal at all." Boisterous, occasionally hyperactive personalities make the family's pet bulldog appear serene by comparison.

"When I came in, the story was my mom said we were eating dirt for dinner," Scaccia said. "I guess I cried and like ran up the stairs when I was 6. … They've definitely given me a much better sense of humor. Everyone's always happy around here."

Everyone is Frank Scaccia and his wife, Sue, plus Scaccia's three siblings – older brothers Joe and Andrew, and younger sister Alex. 

Scaccia and Andrew, 20, were inseparable roommates – sharing a bunk bed for several years – from the time he arrived until last weekend, when Andrew left for Western Illinois University.

Such a bustling household was initially shocking for Scaccia, who developed a close, 1-on-1 bond with his foster parent, Laura McIntyre, with whom he lived for about 20 months in Aurora.

The Scaccias made sure McIntyre remained in the picture after what she called "the hardest time of my life," when she turned her little pal over to the Scaccia family. 

"They weren't trying to just forget about all of his past," McIntyre said. "They didn't think all of a sudden he showed up and he was like a new baby. He was a 6-year-old little boy who had a life before that, so I think it helped with his transition, 'I don't have to forget everything else I did. I can build on that.' "

McIntyre still takes an active interest in Scaccia's life, even escorting him on a recent college visit to Drake. She eventually became Scaccia's godmother.

"It was a hard decision [to give Anthony up], but I knew he needed a family," McIntyre said. "He needed the brothers and sister. He needed that, and a dad. I believe everything happens for reasons, and I'm really grateful the Scaccias still have me in his life."

Scaccia's formative years took a turn after the Department of Children and Family Services separated him at age 4 from the care of his biological mother, who lived in the DeKalb area.

Scaccia said some violence he witnessed as a small child is impossible to forget, and he can't help but wonder how his biological mother is doing. Mostly, he is grateful for the fresh start he was given.

"Anything could have happened," Scaccia said. "I'm just really thankful that I could have a family like this, and friends, and my support system, meeting all these people I've met, whether it's football or church or just my neighbors."

Frank Scaccia said he and Sue became interested in adopting because they both hailed from big families, wanted "to give another child an opportunity to flourish" and preferred not to start from diapers with another baby. The decision turned out to be a godsend for all involved, he said.

"The question always comes up, I ask [Anthony], what do you think you'd be doing now if you weren't adopted or if you were still staying with your mom. And he'll be honest. He'll say probably playing video games, getting in trouble," Frank Scaccia said. "I think the opportunities that were given to him here, he would have never had it with his biological mother, and I think he realizes it. Anthony's very humble. … For a 17-year-old kid, he's pretty mature."

Setting off fireworks

Part of becoming a Scaccia meant embracing sports. That turned out to be a magnificent fit.

After playing multiple sports growing up – including being coached by Frank with the Tri-City Chargers youth football program – Scaccia zeroed in on football and wrestling once reaching high school.

He qualified for the IHSA State Wrestling Meet at 138 pounds as a sophomore, then traded in wrestling for track and field, which he credits with his ascent as a football player.

Scaccia said his track workouts – Batavia football coach Dennis Piron also leads the Bulldogs' track and field squad – molded him into the explosive and nimble athlete he's become.

He also has proven opportunistic.

Scaccia entered his junior football season with a modest outlook, thinking he might be a third-down back and special teams returner. But on opening night at Glenbard North, teammates' cramping woes forced Scaccia into a larger role.

He pounced on the chance, playing a major role in a thrilling, 42-41 Bulldogs victory against the eventual Class 8A runners-up, and Scaccia became a focal point for the Upstate Eight Conference River champion Bulldogs the rest of the season.

The Bulldogs recently watched 2012 season highlights during a team gathering, and Scaccia's acceleration and ability to shake would-be tacklers in the open field reminded his teammates that a special back is in their midst.

"The kids are 'Oohing and aahing,'" Piron said. "It's like they're watching fireworks go off. It's a neat thing."

Scaccia rushed for 1,279 yards and more than eight yards per carry as a junior. Piron projects an even more brilliant 2013 for Scaccia, who figures to add more pass-catching duties to his workload in the rushing game and on kick returns.

"He definitely won't be a surprise this year, that's for sure," Piron said. "But he's bigger, stronger, quicker, more elusive even. A better player, much higher level. It'll be very, very fun for people in our community to watch him play. It'll be exciting."

Scaccia could transform into a slot receiver in college, with Butler rating high in Scaccia's late-summer hierarchy of schools. A few bigger programs, such as Illinois State and Southern Illinois, have expressed interest, though Scaccia's physical dimensions could scare some suitors.

Unlike his wrestling days, when cutting weight dictated his nutritional mindset, Scaccia is gobbling protein shakes and frequently adding to his dad's grocery list in hopes of bulking up.

"It's a big deal," Scaccia said. "I'm trying my hardest. I mean, I'm eating a ton. I guess it's up to the college coaches. If I'm getting the job done every year, I would hope they'd think I'd do the same thing at the next level."

Impressing college coaches in the coming weeks is part of the plan.

But Scaccia already is assured of his place in an even more important realm – family. His crazy household feels very much like home.

"It's just, I'm a Scaccia," he said. "That's how it is."

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