Werts rises to occasion

Bruising runner scores three TDs as Firebirds roll

Free State's Ryder Werts stars on both sides of the ball

? Free State High senior Ryder Werts usually isn’t the football team’s first-string running back. But he sure looked like one Friday night at Shawnee Mission South as the Firebirds (1-1) blew out the Raiders (0-2), 57-14.

Werts was a workhorse, running for 84 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, in place of benched starting running back Chucky Hunter, kept out of the game the first two quarters for missing a practice.

“I’m not glad that Chucky didn’t get to play, but the opportunity was fun,” Werts said.

The Firebirds’ senior didn’t think he would get that many carries, let alone rack up that many points against the Raiders.

“I was under the impression that we were going to pass every play with me back there,” Werts, who considers himself a decent pass-blocker, said. “They started calling run plays, so I just took the ball and ran with it.”

Lisher said the starting linebacker was not a finesse runner.

“Ryder’s not a juker. He’s gonna line up and run the ball straight ahead, and he’s gonna run over anything that gets in his way, and I like that about him,” Lisher said. “He’s gonna make you pay if you do try to tackle him.”

Werts tried to convince Lisher to put him back in for more touches in the second half, but was happy to see Hunter run for 89 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Lisher also thought Rosenstengle had a better showing in his second outing, completing 12 of 21 passes for 178 yards and a TD. He credited the offensive line for helping the Firebirds finish with 527 yards of offense.

“We had some guys do a good job tonight of just finishing blocks and hounding people,” Lisher, who moved some linemen to different positions for the SM South game, said.

Werts also apologized for telling the Journal-World that the Firebirds hoped to “crush” the Raiders this week.

“I’m glad I came out and we did well so we didn’t look like a bunch of idiots,” he said, regretting his bulletin-board statement.

Lisher said he was happy with his team’s offensive execution throughout the game, but was disappointed with the defense, which gave up 307 total yards.

That feeling resonated with the players as well.

“I’m a little upset with our defense,” Werts said, noting that the defense blew containment assignments a number of times.

Even so, Free State, which did not have a single turnover on the night, built a 43-0 lead with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter.

Rosenstengle said the Firebirds needed to have a complete attack if they want to keep winning.

“It feels good to put them away, but there’s a lot of things we can work on,” Rosenstengle said. “There’s stiffer competition, so we’ve got to get ready for it.”