After slow start, Frontenac eyes spot in state semifinals

The Raiders face Holton Friday in the 3A state quarterfinals.

FRONTENAC, Kan. – Frontenac’s high expectations entering this season were met with injuries and COVID-19 setbacks, resulting in a 1-3 start.

“We lost Griffin Souder right before kickoff at Columbus and it kind of threw everybody for a loop,” says head coach Mark Smith, “I don’t think we handled that very well the first game. That, and we had some kids get quarantined throughout the year…is always tough and every team’s dealt with that.”

Now, the Raiders are looking healthy and playing some of their best football, winning five of their last six games.

“For week 11, we’re as good as we can be,” Smith says, “We’re pretty lucky to have almost everybody here.”

“When we played Girard, we really came together,” says senior Storm Niegsch, “After that it was Galena…and then just this roll that we’ve started, we feel really confident.”

“I told our kids once districts started, if we could get healthy, start rolling and start playing well, nobody’s going to want to play you guys,” Smith adds.

Frontenac is averaging 22.3 points per night on offense, but defensively, the Raiders have held their opponents to 7 or fewer the last three games.

“Coach Palumbo has always done a tremendous job with our defense,” Smith says of his defensive coordinator, “When our defense plays well, Frontenac’s going to play well.”

“We’re always big on defense, and defense wins championships,” Niegsch says, “We try to build our defense as much as we can.”

After the slow start, the Raiders now have a shot to make it to the final four for the first time since 2017, facing Holton on Friday.

“I think they’re a great team, but I think we’re better,” says quarterback Collin McCartney, “We can beat them. We just have to play to the best of our ability to get it done.”

“I think there’s nothing that can stop us but us,” Niegsh adds, “If we’re all going and we’re all going at once, I don’t think there’s anyone that can stop us.”

“We know how hard class 3A is. There are a lot of good teams. We know we have to play well to get there, but that’s why we play the game, to get to this moment and try to win those big games.”