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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Ratka Excels In Utility Role

Labels mean nothing. It’s all in how you look at it. And if you were to ask Cory Ratka how feels about wearing a “utility player” tag, he’ll simple smile, shrug and say he carries that name with pride.

Ratka, a senior on the Kenmore West football team, wears multiple hats for the Blue Devils as he plays linebacker, fullback and serves as the team’s punter.

“It feels good,” Ratka said, “because you want to do what you can to help your team win. If having me out there, if I can help the team in that position, then that’s what I want.” While some student-athletes are under the misconception that you have to have a defined role or starting position to be of value, Ratka believes a player’s true value is the willingness to do whatever is asked of them for the greater good of the team.

“It feels good,” he said. “You know that you’re putting everything towards the win and what your team wants for the end goal.”

“Cory does accept it,”said Ken-West head coach John Haynes. “Cory is a team player and he’ll do whatever is needed for the team to be successful.”

Now in his third season of varsity, Ratka is coming off of one of the best games of his career as he scored three touchdowns in the Blue Devils 41-28 win over Lockport in their Section VI Class AA meeting on Oct.1.

Ratka scored on touchdown receptions of 14, 7 and 17 yards as the Blue Devils moved to 2-2 in league play as they face the Red Devils at Clarence High School tonight at 7pm in the final AA North meeting for both teams.

For Ratka, the numbers he put up against Lockport weren’t just the product of the hard work he always puts in. It was also the result of finally being 100% healthy.

“I think one of the things that’s been holding him back is he hasn’t been fully healthy,” said Haynes. “Even when he was there after the Riverside game (opening night) when we were going against (Williamsville) North and Niagara Falls he was on one leg most of the time, but right now he’s back to full strength as we saw last week. He’s been doing what he needs to do and it’s a bonus to have him on the field because he’s a three-way player. He’s out on all of the special teams, on offense and he’s also out on defense.”

The definition of an old-school, hard-nosed player, Ratka is also one of the most accomplished rugby players in WNY. A member of the Kenmore varsity rugby team since eighth grade, last season Ratka received perhaps his greatest athletic honor when he was named the New York State Player of the Year.

“I surprised because there’s a lot of good players around. Especially older kids,” Ratka said.

Haynes said that even though football and rugby are different certain things like grit, hard work and a never-say-die attitude transfer over. Which is why Haynes strongly believes that Ratka toughness on the gridiron was born on the rugby field.

“He’s a state rugby Player of the Year and he’s been around a lot of good, quality people,” said Haynes. “So he has a lot of good, quality traits himself.”

With a lot of football left and a full rugby season still on the horizon Cory Ratka said winning Player of the Year has had a far reaching impact on him.

“It makes me feel more like an athlete,” Ratka said. “It makes me have more confidence.”

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