Ryan Minniti is known to raise his voice around Batavia football practice or in the locker room as teammates and coaches alike sometimes are shouted over by the fiery defensive tackle.
Fellow senior Anthony Thielk said the Bulldogs don’t mind the occasional sharp-tongued comments, knowing they come from the heart.
Minniti, one of the team’s captains, has earned his soap box, Thielk figures.
“He’s like the hardest-working, blue-collar kid you could find around here,” Thielk said. “He’s just old school. He works his butt off every day.”
Minniti has been among the most disruptive forces defensively for Batavia (3-1), which takes on West Chicago tonight in the Bulldogs’ homecoming game.
Batavia coach Dennis Piron said opponents have made dealing with the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Minniti a focus of their gameplans this season, with minimal success.
“We can’t block him in practice, and I know other teams can’t block him, either,” Piron said. “He’s too quick off the ball. He’s too powerful. He can do too many things to you.”
Minniti had an especially dominant outing last week at Streamwood, helping compensate for the absence of fellow defensive line stalwart James Millette, who is out with an injury. Minniti had a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery in the first half, during which he applied consistent pressure to Streamwood quarterback Mason Polich.
On the season, Minniti is credited with 12 quarterback hurries, tops on the Bulldogs’ defense.
“The coaches look to me to take on double teams so everyone else can get free and make tackles and make plays, but obviously [against Streamwood] I made a few of my own, so that was nice,” Minniti said.
One of the team’s most avid weight room devotees, Minniti said he improved his bench press from 225 pounds last year to 285 now, and his squat is up to 425 pounds.
Given his stocky build, Thielk said some teams don’t recognize Minniti’s athleticism until it’s too late.
“His quickness and I guess agility, I think people underestimate,” Thielk said. “That’s why you’ll see him shoot through holes. Guards are pulling, and you’ll see him shoot through and he’ll make tackles in the backfield because people actually underestimate his speed.”
Batavia has hit a soft spot of its schedule, facing a winless opponent tonight for the second straight week. Considering that, it might be Minniti’s leadership that has been more important than his play this week as he reinforces the coaching staff’s message.
“The coaches have been telling us we need to have our toughest practices to stay at the level we need to be to beat St. Charles North, St. Charles East, teams like that,” Minniti said, referencing upcoming opponents. “Carry it into the playoffs, so we still have a very high level of practice.”
The Bulldogs have regrouped nicely since a Week 2 home loss to Richards accounted for the program’s first regular-season varsity setback since the 2010 season.
“Obviously [Richards] was a big disappointment, but after that loss, it was a big motivation for the rest of the season,” Minniti said. “We’re going to keep on trucking.”