Throughout early to mid-December Kansas Pregame contacted 8-Man football coaches in an effort to name the third annual Top 8 team of seniors for both divisions of 8-Man football in Kansas. After an overwhelming response from coaches, and once all the votes were tallied, 16 players were selected.
This is the last of 16 individual player profiles highlighting the Top 8 selections in each division and released in no particular order. Look for 6-Man Top 6 articles in the coming days.
Carson Werth, RB/LB, 5-7, 150, Victoria
Over four seasons on the gridiron Carson Werth put together a truly impressive football résumé, all the while helping Victoria to a 37-7 record in that span. At 5-7, 150 pounds, the high-motor back and linebacker punched above his weight class and was a dynamic playmaker on offense, defense, and special teams.
As a freshman, Werth gained 622 all-purpose yards – 273 rushing, 32 receiving, 317 on kick returns – and also made a significant impact on defense with 32 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and a sack.
The Knights finished the season 6-3 with their two regular season losses coming in close games against quality opponents, and their first round loss in the 8-Man I playoffs coming against a loaded Wichita County team in an 88-66 barnburner. The first round exit was the last season without a deep playoff run for Werth.
Entering his sophomore season the Knights dropped to 8-Man II and Werth continued to impact every facet of the game, gaining 455 yards rushing, 90 receiving, 230 on kick returns and 98 on punt returns with seven rushing touchdowns, a receiving TD, and two kick return scores.
Defensively he recorded 54 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, and two sacks as Victoria tore through their regular season and district play undefeated, winning each matchup by double digits.
In the playoffs the Knights advanced through the first three rounds with relative ease, with their closest matchup coming in the quarterfinals against Wheatland-Grinnell, 44-26. It was in the semifinals when Werth and company finally faced their first defeat of the year in a 44-22 loss to a loaded St. Francis team, leaving them at 11-1 on the season.
Werth’s junior year saw the speedy back carry a heavier role out of the backfield with 1,108 yards rushing and 16 TDs on 117 carries, 140 receiving yards and two TDs, as well as 327 kick return yards with one returned for a score.
On the other side of the ball he totalled 81 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
“His biggest strength on defense were his instincts and ability to tackle,” head coach Doug Oberle said. “His ability to find the ball and hustle to get to the ball were special, his ability to get ball carriers on the ground is almost a lost art. He played the game without fear and a great amount of passion.”
Werth’s dominance helped the Knights win all but one game in the regular season, with a 42-40 Week 3 loss to Wakeeney-Trego the team’s only blemish. The Knights then powered through the first three rounds of the playoffs with a 58-52 second round win over a high-powered Caldwell offense and a 46-28 quarterfinals win over a then undefeated Dighton team.
It again wasn’t until the semifinals where Victoria faced elimination, this time against Wheatland-Grinnell, a team they knocked out a season prior. The Knights finished with a 10-2 mark.
Going into this final year of high school football, Werth was the ringleader of a group of returning starters with plenty of big play potential, and it showed.
The Knights again dominated in the regular season with only one game kept close, a 30-28 win over Wallace County. Besides that, the closest a ream in the regular season got to the Knights was 30 points in Week 7 against Sylan-Lucas, who entered the game 5-1.
Werth had games where he was dinged up and also sat out a majority of the season’s second halves due to blowouts, but still carried the ball 67 times for 906 yards and 11 TDs, averaging 13.5 yards per touch, and also reeled in seven catches for 108 yards and another TD.
On defense he tallied 71 tackles, six tackles-for-loss, and three sacks, while also returning two kickoffs for TDs despite returning fewer kicks than in prior years.
“Carson was important to us in all three phases of the game,” Oberle said. “But certainly on offense he was a guy we tried to get the ball to in different ways and in different spots on the field. He can catch it well and is also a good blocker. He just really enjoys the game and plays hard, ton of hustle plays, tough kid.”
Victoria’s season ended in the quarterfinals in a 62-48 shootout with a Thunder Ridge team that went on to advance to the state title game. Werth finished the game with 135 rushing yards and three TDs.
“The Werth kid was a great football player,” Thunder Ridge head coach Joel Struckhoff said. ”He wasn’t the biggest player, but he played with heart and ran hard. He flew around on defense and was around the ball on about every play. He was a hard assignment to block because he read the plays well and moved downhill. He played a very physical style of football for his frame. He wanted to finish plays on offense by running someone over or on defense by finishing tackles.”
After Werth finishes his senior year he plans to attend North Central Technical College to study Carpentry.
“We will miss Carson's passion and love of the game,” Oberle said. “He was a four year contributor, showed up every day ready to work. He was a guy who would step up and make big plays in big games. Also a great kid to be around on a daily basis. He enjoyed the process.”