Craw-Kan Southeast Kansas Team of the Week: 2022 Frontenac’s defense statistically on par with last year’s state runner-up unit

Frontenac’s defense has allowed three TD passes against 10 interceptions.


Last season, Frontenac was 3A state runner-up and finished fourth in the final 3A poll.

The Raiders graduated its terrific defensive line, including 3A defensive player of the year Landon Dean, 3x time all-state pick Cruz Blair, Lane Franklin and QB/DE Colin McCartney. Frontenac had 28.2 points per game and allowed 15.6 a contest.

This season, Frontenac has not been ranked in the top-5 all year. Entering the final week of the regular season, the Raiders are nearly identical or stronger than the 2021 squad by all defensive measures. Frontenac has one of Kansas’ best passing defenses with three scores allowed against 10 interceptions.

Last year, the Raiders had the No. 92 offense and No. 52 defense for all classes, per Massey Ratings, a nationally recognized formula that combines margin of victory and strength of schedule, among other factors. This season, the Raiders have the No. 105 offense and No. 60 defense.

Frontenac returned just three defensive starters: senior RB/CB Mario Menghini, senior linebacker Jack Lusker and junior linebacker Peyton McDonald. All three recorded 41 or 42 tackles last year. Menghini, who picked off six passes and had 14 offensive scores as a junior, is considered one of the state’s top players for all classes.

In 2021, Frontenac delivered 5.5 yards per play with 222 rushing yards and 84 passing yards a game. Frontenac finished plus-12 in turnover margin. The Raiders averaged 28.2 points a game and permitted 15.6.

The defense permitted 4.3 yards per play and 150 rushing yards a game. Frontenac’s pass defense allowed 79 of 177 passing for 1,006 yards with 10 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, per SIK research, Hudl and MaxPreps boxscores. That comes to a passing efficiency of 92.9.

Frontenac finished 10-3, its second double-digit winning season in three years and fourth under coach Mark Smith. The Raiders were 79-32 under Smith entering this year.

Frontenac is 5-2 this fall, including a pair of key wins by a combined seven points. The Raiders opened the year with a 14-12 loss to Colgan. After a 29-0 win at Riverton, the Raiders won, 12-10, at Bishop Ward, a solid 3A school.

In addition to the three returning starters, sophomore Korbin Niegsch, junior Trey Cramer, sophomore Jayden Houghton, senior Lathan Lundberg, junior Gage Peterson and senior Alex Williams are among the Raiders’ key defensive players. Vinny Pile also had two interceptions in a game this season and is one of the top kickers in the class.

Frontenac fell, 35-0, to Girard before three straight key district wins: 35-8 at Columbus, 51-7 versus Baxter Springs and 27-21 at Parsons last week. Frontenac has won nine straight since Parsons since ’12. Parsons and Ward are a combined 10-2 when not playing Frontenac.

Ward has tallied 31.5 points a game, Parsons 44 a contest when not playing the Raiders.

Frontenac will play host to Galena for the District 1 title this week. Both teams are 5-2, 3-0. Frontenac has won four in a row against Galena, but this is generally a very close series. The teams have split the last 20 meetings, according to MaxPreps archives.

Against Parsons, Frontenac trailed 14-6 after the first quarter and 14-14 at halftime. However, Frontenac scored on a 14-yard TD pass from Kal Terlip to Menghini in the third quarter and a five-yard TD run by Menghini in the fourth quarter.

Terlip finished 8 of 14 passing for 93 yards with three touchdowns against one interception. The Raiders held Parsons’ great passing attack to 11 of 18 for 123 yards with one touchdown against two interceptions.

Frontenac limited Parsons to a 60.4 quarterback rating. This marked Parsons’ lowest passer rating in 14 games.

This season, Frontenac has been statistically even better defensively with 3.39 yards per play allowed and 172 yards permitted per game. The Raiders have held opponents to 60 of 121 passing for 440 yards with three scores against 10 interceptions. Frontenac has picked off a pass in at least five straight games. The Raiders have limited teams to a 71.8 passing efficiency.

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