By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
Frontenac junior Mario Menghini enjoyed a solid sophomore season when he picked up all-state honorable mention for a 6-5 squad. He was the Raiders’ leading returning receiver with 29 catches for 604 yards and five scores. Defensively, Menghini picked off two passes.
However, the Raiders lacked a standout running back. Senior signal caller Collin McCartney was Frontenac’s top rusher coming back with 637 yards and 13 scores. Menghini was expected to be a key player – and has emerged in multiple facets for the 10-2 Raiders, especially in the playoff run.
Frontenac qualified for the Class 3A state championship game versus two-time defending champion Andale (12-0). The teams will face at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Hutchinson Community College’s Gowans Stadium.
Frontenac is 1-6 all-time in title games with its lone crown in 1994. Before this year, Frontenac last made state in a second place finish to Holcomb in Class 4A, Division II four seasons ago.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Menghini has paced Frontenac with 942 rushing yards and 11 rushing scores, along with six interceptions on defense. One of 3A’s top-two way players, Menghini has delivered impressive playoff performances.
While Frontenac is known for defense, the offense has shown sizable gains from last fall.
Overall, Frontenac has rushed for 221 yards a game, 5.7 yards per play, and collected 30.6 points a contest. The 199 passing yards in the 32-13 semifinal win versus Holton represented a season best.
Last year, Frontenac rushed for 149 yards a game, 5.2 yards per play, and 20.8 points a contest. Frontenac has forced 26 turnovers and is plus-12 in turnover margin.
Against Holton, Menghini rushed 13 times for 50 yards and a score, completed a 17-yard pass, and caught four balls for 168 yards and two scores. He opened the margin in the second half on a pair of 68-yard TD receptions.
In a 42-26 quarterfinal win versus Rock Creek, Menghini rushed 20 times for 195 yards and a pair of scores. For the 31-6 victory against Galena in the Round of 16, Menghini picked off a pair of passes.
In a 26-6 win in Week 9 versus rival Columbus, Menghini delivered 18 carries for 189 yards and four rushing scores on runs of 27, 2, 72 and four yards.
Frontenac has enjoyed much improved pass defense from last year with its highly experienced defensive line, linebacker Justice Compton and a secondary of Menghini, seniors Brady Stanley and Dawson Lapping.
This year, opponents have completed 75 of 171 passes for 940 yards with 10 TDs versus 16 interceptions. Frontenac has allowed 12.5 points a contest, seventh-best in 3A, per Prep Power Index. Last year, Frontenac permitted 19.9 points a game.
Opponents completed 63 of 135 passes for 980 yards with seven scores against eight INTs, according to SIK research and Hudl boxscores.