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Sachem Coach Profiles: Dave Caputo

Posted Thursday, October 28, 2010 by SachemPatch.com

 

That same feeling brings Caputo to near nausea today. He can't talk about the game.

As he boarded the bus to head back to Lake Ronkonkoma that November night 15 years ago, he wasn't thinking about another chance to win an Island title … one with a headset, hours of film preparation and his name on the roster as a coach and not a player.

A decade and a half later, Caputo and the Flaming Arrows are again vying for a chance to achieve the highest honor Long Island football has to offer.

As a player, Caputo was a feared defensive back in Sachem's daunting secondary during the mid-1990s. As a coach he still brings that fiery aura to the table and is a product of the program.

With his broad shoulders and grimacing stair on the sidelines, it doesn't take much for current Sachem players to realize he means business.

If there was ever an old-school minded coach in the modern era, it's Caputo. He's reserved during times of jubilation and knows the precise and professional moment to celebrate a win or big play, as does the rest of the coaching staff at Sachem North.

Perhaps shutting down William Floyd in a 40-6 win that was broadcast live in the tri-state area was enough to excite the modest man. After he put his headset on the bench that hugs the sideline at North, he clapped his hands, smiled brightly and sprinted out to shake hands. That's the most you'll see from him.

"David Caputo brings the same things to the table as a defensive coordinator that he brought to the table as a player and captain for Sachem," said Dave Falco, the head football coach at Sachem North. "He is passionate about Sachem and Sachem football. He's intelligent and he works tirelessly in his week-to-week preparation. Under his guidance and leadership the Sachem North defense is motivated and prepared to play each week."

At a time when Sachem was kicking tail and taking names in the '90s, Caputo, whose uncle Fred Crasa played for Sachem in 1982 and 1983, captained the Arrows to a Suffolk County title and the school's only appearance in the Long Island Championship. It was no surprise he was an All-Division, All-County and All-Long Island selection by season's end, also winning the school's Black Helmet Award, given to the player that properly represents what a Sachem football player truly is: diligent, hard nosed and focused, while maintaining a level head and sportsmanship at all times.

His biggest game was the county title win over Longwood in which he snagged two interceptions that resulted in Jimmy O'Neal touchdowns.

"It came against a team that beat us up a little bit in the regular season," he said. "We came back and shut them out."

He played college football at Cornell University, where his high school sweat heart and eventual wife – the former Jacqueline Ruttigliano – also attended. Having played for one of the hardest working coaches around in Fred Fusaro, Caputo was ready for Ivy League play.

"I saw a lot of players struggling with the time commitment," he said. "I was thankful I went through it in high school."

He did, however, have a hard time adjusting to the coaching methods of former Cornell head coach Jim Hofher, who "was totally the opposite of Fred Fusaro," Caputo said. "[Hofher] was much more laid back. He didn't coach in a militaristic style and I hated it."

Hofher was there for eight years until 1997. Caputo was coached by Pete Mangurian, the current offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for the final two years of his college career. His Cornell teams were only 15-14 in three years, but he was a controlling coach and Caputo thrived under that.

"Everything fell into place in college," he said. "They were working us hard, but it was normal to me."

Out of the original 45 players that were recruited by Cornell when Caputo was a freshman, only seven were left on the roster by his senior season. He said his final play was a fourth down stop against the University of Pennsylvania - who he felt slighted him during the recruiting process - during his senior season. He was named defensive MVP of the game.

Another classic moment, though not funny at the time, was when Caputo was slapped upside the head by future NFL lineman Marcellus Wiley, who played ball at Columbia.

Caputo, a freshman at the time, was getting awfully chattery on a special teams play. Wiley, who hails from Compton, Calif., pulled a Tony Danza and showed him who the boss was.

"I thought I was in a safe spot," he said, laughing. "His wing span must have been 6-foot. He slapped me. It was just one play."

Cornell started the season 4-0 and lost the Ivy League title by a game and had a let down against a 1-9 Dartmouth team his senior season.

With his degree in applied economics and finance, he took a job at J.P. Morgan and Chase and worked in the banking industry for a year. Then he moved over to a securities company.

"At that point, I realized it wasn't my thing," he said.

Some tried to finger 9/11 as a reason for him exiting New York City. He says otherwise.

"Something was missing," he rationalized. "I had a job, but I wasn't building relationships that meant anything."

Though he never thought he'd enter the education field, he went to Northeastern for his Master's Degree after leaving the financial industry and hasn't looked back.

Caputo, like many other devout Sachem football alums, had a good experience with Fusaro to the point where it affected his life in a great way. He was motivated to teach and coach because of his experiences.

"The way my life has taken shape, I owe it to him," he said.

As an up-and-coming athlete under Fusaro, Caputo made the mistake of opening his mouth when he shouldn't have just once. He'll never forget the repercussions.

"He had a glare," Caputo remembered. "If you screwed up and got that glare or if you mouthed off, or got a penalty, just that glare as a 16-year old kid still leaves a mark. He would make an example out of everyone.

"I remember one outburst I had on the field. He whispered in my ear, 'I don't care who you are, you turn your stuff in and you're done.' The program was bigger than you. He had no problem telling me how it was going to be."

He started his coaching career in Sachem as an assistant at Sachem East, where he stayed for four years. He is a history and criminal justice teacher in that part of the district still. In 2008 he moved over to North, a return to the promise land so to speak. He has also coached winter track at Sachem East and served as the head JV baseball coach and a varsity assistant for the baseball program at East until this year.

Today North is gunning for a county title and if all goes right a Long Island crown. Like that year's team, the roster reflects the attitudes of the coaching staff.

"We knew what we had to do and we knew what was at stake," Caputo said of his senior season. "The program had us so brainwashed, the '95 team bought into him and the program so much. You weren't excepting anything less. We were playing for a bigger purpose than to have fun."

But while there are similarities with how the community is supporting the program, the parents and players have bonded perfectly and the peripheral attributes that help a program develop are busting at the seams, Caputo thinks this group is still stronger and faster.

Instead of O'Neal as the do-it-all back that carried 90 percent of the workload on his shoulders, the 2010 team has a three-headed-monster in Jesse Scanna, Michael Andreassi and Dalton Crossan. Double their duties on the defensive side of the ball and things are scary. Not even the '95 group had that much depth at skill positions.

"We're in a better place, to be honest," he said. "If I was to look at intangibles… my team practiced well, we were smart and focused. This year we've had one bad practice that we can remember all year, that's pretty good for high school kids. I don't know too many teams that can stay that. The 1995 team was the same way. It's a mature group. Most of the times with high school kids you don't say that. I see the similarities."

He's just hoping one thing isn't similar come the third week in November.

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