By CONOR NICHOLL
Mark Smith has it rolling with Frontenac football. In his first nine seasons, the Raiders posted a 69-29 record. After a 5-5 mark in his first fall, the Raiders have posted a winning mark each year. Frontenac has three double-digit winning seasons and state runner-up appearance. This season is the 100th year of Frontenac football in school history. The Raiders are #2 all-time in total wins in Kansas behind Lawrence High. The program is one of the most consistent in the state since the existence of high school football in Kansas.
Two years ago, Frontenac finished third in 48-team Class 3A with 7.7 points allowed a contest. It marked the first time the Raiders had allowed under 10 points a game since 9.7 points permitted in 2005, according to the Kansas Football History database.
Last season, the Raiders returned eight defensive starters, including their entire defensive line. Smith expected Frontenac to be quite strong on defense. Frontenac had a disjointed season with COVID-19 changes. The Raiders went 0-2 against out-of-state opponents and had to play another regular season game on Saturday afternoon.
Frontenac fell 34-13 in Week 2 to 5A Coweta (Okla.), an eventual 11-2 season that averaged 35 points a game. The Raiders played a highly difficult schedule where every opponent finished with at least four wins. The Raiders eventually allowed 19 points game, still No. 16 and top third in Class 3A. However, it marked Frontenac’s worst scoring defense since 22.5 allowed in 2012, Smith’s first year.
This summer, Frontenac again returned its entire defensive line, one of the most highly publicized preseason position groups in Kansas. The group has senior Cruz Blair (6-1, 240), Landon Dean (6-4, 245), Collin McCartney (6-2, 200), and Lane Franklin (6-2, 260).
Dean has committed to Oklahoma State and is the state’s No. 7 prospect, per recruiting leader 247 Sports. McCartney returns as the starting quarterback after he rushed for 637, passed for 1,175 yards and accounted for 21 offensive scores.
Frontenac opened No. 3 in the preseason KPreps poll and faced CNC rival Columbus in a high-profile contest. One of the key 3A preseason questions was whether Frontenac’s defense could ascend to among 3A’s elite again after the topsy-turvy 2020.
After Week 1, that is an emphatic yes.
Frontenac grinded out a 20-0 victory against Columbus, just outside the top-five in 3A. In a game moved to Saturday because of weather, the Raiders joined Iola, Southeast of Saline and Clearwater as the lone 3A squads to deliver a shutout. Frontenac easily faced the perceived toughest opponent of the quartet.
After a 25-6 loss to Columbus in Week 1 last year, Frontenac has now won five of six versus the Titans. Frontenac now has 15 shutouts under Smith, including two against Columbus. Last year marked the first time Frontenac had zero shutouts since ’14. Frontneac also had several key players out over the first two weeks of last season.
Frontenac’s defense held Columbus to 4 of 10 passing for 54 yards with an interception. The Titans rushed 35 times for 125 yards, including 17 carries for 35 yards from senior Gabe Martin, a four-year starter. Columbus had just three plays longer than 20 yards and punted four times.
Two years ago, Frontenac held Columbus to 20 total yards in a 23-0 win. Last season, Columbus had 161 yards in the win against the Raiders.
On Saturday, Blair and Dean each posted at least two sacks. Standout junior defensive back Mario Menghini picked off a pass. Linebacker Justice Compton, a wrestling state runner-up, played well and added a 76-yard rushing touchdown. McCartney threw a touchdown pass to Aaron Doria. Frontenac is at Coweta (2-0) this week.