FSHS probable starters
TE - Mike Santee, 6-2, 215, Sr. RT - Matt Frantz, 6-3, 230, Jr. RG - Scott Williams, 5-11, 230, Sr. C - Michael Lisher, 6-2, 225, Soph. LG - Doug Bittinger, 6-1, 215, Jr. LT - Graham Saunders, 6-4, 235, Jr.
QB - Craig Rosenstengle, 6-2, 190, Sr. RB - Chucky Hunter, 5-9, 185, Jr. H-Back - Caleb Gress, 5-10, 200, Sr. WR - Jason Sneegas, 5-11, 160, Sr. WR - Preston Randolph, 6-1, 180, Jr.
K - Bryan Sims, 5-7, 140, Sr.
LE - Williams. NT - Kevin Coleman, 5-8, 220, Sr. RE - Saunders. OLB - Zack Toelkes, 5-11, 195, Sr. OLB - Mitch Werts, 5-9, 170, Jr. ILB - Santee. ILB - Ryder Werts, 5-10, 220, Sr. ILB - Gress.
CB - Rosenstengle. CB - Sneegas. FS - Randolph.
P - Kirk Resseguie, 6-2, 160, Soph.
Ryder Werts isn't a magician. Free State High's senior linebacker can't be in two places at once.
And yet Werts posted some astonishing defensive numbers in the Firebirds' game against Olathe North last week. Free State stats show Werts was in on a mind-boggling 36 tackles - eight solo and, get this, 28 assisted stops.
"Werts was all over the place," Free State coach Bob Lisher said. "He had a great game."
Unfortunately for the Firebirds, however, the offense struggled in the 29-10 loss to the Eagles. Now Free State hopes to bounce back tonight against Shawnee Mission East.
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at SM North District Stadium.
"It was bad," Werts said of the disappointing defeat last Friday at Haskell Stadium. "We were favored in the power rankings and all that. But I think it shows how hard we have to play."
Although the defense, led by Werts, was solid, the offense was turnover-prone. Free State quarterbacks threw five interceptions, including three by starter Craig Rosenstengle.
"We know we didn't play very good," Rosenstengle said. "Those interceptions were mostly me. Two were dumb. I've got to make my reads right."
Tonight's meeting will be the first between the Firebirds and the Lancers since the first round of last season's Class 6A playoffs. Free State went in undefeated and was averaging about 40 points a game, but struggled to post a 20-9 victory.
"They're always big and physical, and they played us better than anybody in the playoffs," coach Lisher said of the Lancers.
SM East (1-3) doesn't appear to be playoff-bound this year. The Lancers lost their first three games before edging Leavenworth, 20-17, last Friday. The slow start is surprising because SM East has returning starters at quarterback (Forrest Miller) and tailback (Marcus Webb).
Free State (2-2), meanwhile, has fewer than a handful of returning starters from last year's 11-1 team, the best in school history.
One of those returnees is Werts, and the 5-foot-9, 220-pounder is having an All-Sunflower League-caliber season. Moreover, he's anxious to play against SM East because he was forced to sit out last year's playoff game with a shoulder injury.
"Watching was really tough for me that night," Werts said.
And if that weren't enough incentive, Werts can't wait to play against SM East's Terrance Thomas, a senior wide receiver who lived in Lawrence until his family moved to Overland Park when he was in the sixth grade.
"We're really good friends," Werts said. "We played on the same little league team, and we went to the same grade school (Pinckney). I'm really excited to play against him."
Free State will return to Overland Park next Thursday to tangle with SM West at SM South District Stadium.