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Scholz Finalist - Mike Scarcella

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Scholz Finalist - Mike Scarcella

Photo courtesy Iona rugby.

Perhaps the most physical rugby player in the Rugby East, Iona College center Mike Scarcella was Goff Rugby Report's MVP Back in DI rugby fot last fall, and he is now a Scholz Award finalist.

One of four players who are finalists for the Scholz Award for the top men's college player in the country, Scarcella started playing at Bishop Hendricken in Rhode Island.

"I saw the movie Invictus," Scarcella said. "And I thought that was something I wanted to do. Hendricken was the only school with a rugby team in Rhode Island, and that's how I started."

Scarcella was flyhalf, partnering with Fall 2016 DII top college back, Tom St. Pierre, who was scrumhalf. St. Pierre went on to star at Norwich.

"It was great playing with Tom," said Scarcella. "Rugby was huge for me at school. We went on tour with Hendricken. We got to see Rugby School, where the game started. It was great."

Scarcella joined Iona and has been central to the Gaels ever since. A thundering hitter at center, he also creates and scores. Illustrating that might be their Bowl Series game against AIC, in which Iona led at halftime, with Scarcella scoring a try. However, Scarcella separated his shoulder scoring the try, and without him, Iona saw AIC come back to win. 

"We have some great talent on the team, but there are little things holding us back," said Scarcella. "We get these mental errors or not focusing for the whole time. Rugby is about identifying the right decisions under pressure and putting yourself in the better position. We are learning and understanding the game. When you go into a fall season you have to be in good shape and ready to go at full speed. It's just the little things that can get us more success."

Scarcella says it's all about being a good team, a team that works as a unit, and whether its him going off with an injury, or someone else unable to play, they all have to work.

"If all of a sudden your scrumhalf gets hurt - I don't know th exact percentage but he's handling the ball like 80% of the time," he said. "You have to see you're rowing with the oars you have and just adjust. Adjusting on the fly in rugby isn't always easy. For me rugby is the ultimate team sport. Everyone has to have ballhandling skills, everyone has to tackle, everyone has to be in shape. You hold each other the those standards. We're all together and we're here right now in this moment and how are you going to react as a team. It's not football, where you know beforehand how you're going to react and what you're all going to do. Getting the team on the same page is the challenge."

Iona Head Coach Bruce McLane has called Scarcella a "complete animal" and he means that as a compliment. It's not because he has fangs emblazoned on his moutguard. While the Iona center is cerebral in how he breaks down the game, he is fearless in the tackle and always makes more than one player tackle him. 

"I take it as a compliment, but I think we're all animals," said Scarcella.

A junior Economics major, Scarcella said he is taking school and rugby one day at a time, saying it's too early to say what his future plans are.

"I just want to learn as much as I can in rugby and in aspects of business, and we'll see what happens from there," he said. "If I can balance and rugby and a career, that would be idea for me."