In this file photo, Rock Creek junior quarterback Dalton Whitworth (4) runs the ball through Hayden defenders on Nov. 5 in Topeka. The Mustangs ended their season with a 42-26 loss to Frontenac in the sectional championship.

FLUSH — Rock Creek football cut Frontenac’s lead to a point after the opening drive of the second half. The Mustangs got no closer than that Friday, as they lost, 42-26, and ended their season in the sectional round of Class 3A football playoffs.

Frontenac got on the board first, as the Raiders marched down the field and capped the drive with a 14-yard rushing touchdown from running back Mario Meghini.

Rock Creek responded right back, converting multiple third downs. Junior quarterback Dalton Whitworth connected with junior wide receiver Ethan Burgess for the score on a vertical deep route on the left sideline for a 32-yard touchdown.

Burgess was Whitworth’s top target, tallying 121 receiving yards.

The visitors responded right back, and this time it only took Frontenac three plays to score, as Justice Compton erupted for a 35-yard rushing touchdown.

Rock Creek’s (7-4) following possession did not start as smoothly. Frontenac sacked Whitworth, which forced the Mustangs into a third-and-15.

On the ensuing play, the junior signal-caller threw a pass to Daegan Vinduska on a slant route in the middle of the field that was caught at the first down marker, but Vinduska broke a tackle and accelerated down the left side for a 62-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14.

“(The offense) had been outstanding all year,” Rock Creek head coach Shane Sieben said. “Our offensive coordinator and our whole offensive staff has done a great job. They did a great job of finding out what (Frontenac) was doing defensively, finding some holes in the zone and finding some things they could exploit.

“Dalton made some big throws, (and) different receivers stepped up and made plays when we needed to. And Jaydon did a good job at running back. Our offense did everything they could to keep us in it. We just were not good enough defensively.”

Frontenac (9-2) took the lead again with march down the field, and this time Meghini scored from 2 yards out to put the visitors up 21-14 with 2:22 remaining in the second quarter.

Frontenac forced the hosts into a fourth-and-5 from its 44-yard line on the ensuing possession. Sieben left his offense on the field.

On the conversion attempt, Whitworth threw an interception.

But Rock Creek’s defense held Frontenac from scoring following the pick, as the Mustangs managed to drain the last 1:32 of the half to keep the deficit at 21-14.

The Mustangs got the start it wanted to begin the second half: Winans finished the drive with a 5-yard rushing touchdown, but Frontenac blocked the extra point to keep the lead, 21-20.

Until late in the fourth quarter, Rock Creek wasn’t able to muster any more points against Frontenac’s defense, as the visitors extend their lead to 42-20 before the hosts scored again.

Sieben said the offensive struggles in the second half had nothing to do with the offense.

“Our offense was not the issue,” Sieben said. “Their defense is just so big and physical up front. Every answer we had, they had an answer for. Credit Frontenac, (because) they are an unbelievable team. They are really big up front. That caused us problems, and they did a great job attacking on things we didn’t do.”

Even trailing by 22 points in the fourth quarter, Rock Creek didn’t back down. Whitworth linked up with wide receiver Yanci Spiller for another touchdown for the game’s final score.

“(That drive) shows the fight our kids have had all year,” Sieben said. “They continue to fight. They are tough kids. This senior class is special. They have been outstanding leaders for us. Everything that we have asked, they have done it with their whole heart. I would not expect anything less of us than to fight to the very end — and they did.”

It was a tough way for Rock Creek’s season to come to an end, but Sieben said he is proud of this team and the seniors in turning a rebuilding season into a 7-4 campaign that resulted in two playoff wins and a sectional-round home game. It also is the first time Rock Creek has won two playoff games since 2011.

“This senior class leadership has been unbelievable,” Sieben said. “Nobody outside of this locker room expected them to do anything. Nobody expected them to make any kind of run, and all they did was continue to get better and believe. That is the biggest thing: There was not one game they went into this year in doubting themselves. And again tonight, the same way, we fought and had answers and we were right in it until after halftime. The second half got away from us a little bit, but even to the very end we fought.”

With Whitworth returning for his senior year and others key pieces also back, the future could be bright for Rock Creek.

“There is a lot of potential there,” Sieben said. “Our kids have to take big steps. We’ve got to get in the weight room. It was the big difference tonight. You see (Frontenac) with 275 (pounds), 250 (pounds) up front. We don’t have a kid above 215 (pounds) on our offensive line. Our kids know the steps they need to take going into next year. We have got work to do, and they can’t wait to do it. They have got to start on Monday.”