In the family: Another generation of Admirals play for state title

Published 12:01 pm Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thirty years ago, Danville and Mayfield played for a state championship.

Danville won that game in overtime, 24-23, thanks to a blocked extra point by David Walker.

That name should be familiar: His son, also David Walker, is a star wide receiver for the Admirals this season.

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“I know that it was we were up by one or something like that and Mayfield was going to kick a field goal to win the state championship in 1987,” Walker said. “This little kid named Dae Dae, that’s what they called him, came off of the edge to block the field goal to win the game for us for us. That’s pretty cool, I’ve heard that story since I was like six. We still have that football at our house with the score on it and everything. He got a key to the city and all that.”

The game was played Friday, Nov. 27, 1987 at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.

Two more parents of current Danville players played in that championship game: Chris Jackson, father of Ryan Jackson, and Don Harris, whose son shares his name.

That victory in 1987 would mark the first of five state titles in a span of seven years — from 1987 to 1994.

Zach Thornton’s father, Michael, played in the 1992 state championship where Danville beat Mayfield. He was a freshman on that team and a junior in 1994.

The Admirals beat Mayfield in the title game in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1992.

Ryan said his father is always helping him and his teammates — Chris was a 5-foot-10 noseguard for the ‘87 Admirals; Ryan is a 6-foot-1, 340 pound offensive lineman for the 2017 Ads.

Photo submitted/ Ryan Jackson and his father, Chris.

“He’s constantly trying to help us as linemen, get faster feet, stuff like that,” he said. “I hear the most from the community about his football career, everybody knew who he was, he was a really good noseguard.”

The ‘87 Admirals were quarterbacked by another familiar name: Mike Clevenger. Mike is the brother of Clay Clevenger, Danville’s head coach. Clay was also a member of the early-90s Admirals that won state titles.

That kind of legacy is what makes Danville special, coach Clevenger said.

“I think it’s just part of small-town football,” coach Clevenger said. “We say ‘Team 106’ and sometimes that gets lost on you and the fact that this is the 106th season of Danville football. Obviously there’s going to be generation after generation of Admirals. It makes it that much more special for those kids to have dads, uncles, granddads that have played for Danville.”

Having that legacy doesn’t add pressure, Walker said. It adds excitement to the game.

Photo submitted/ David Walker and his father, who shares the same name.

“I don’t feel as pressured, I feel like it’ll be two totally different scenarios,” he said. “What are the odds that it comes down to a field goal and I block it? But we know it’s going to be a close game, it’s Danville and Mayfield. We’ve both been to the state championship multiple times. I feel like it’s a legendary game.”

Harris said it’s something that his father — who played right guard — has told him since he was a kid playing football.

“It’s kind of crazy to me,” he said. “My dad told me ever since I was a kid, I could grow up and be just like him and win two state championship rings. We could’ve had it last year, things went down, but we could come back this year.”

Photo submitted/ Don Harris Sr. and Don Harris Jr.

Walker said that a win would help him and his teammates get rid of the bad taste of last year’s title loss.

“It’s pretty huge, knowing that you’re part of the team that could be doing that,” Walker said. “Especially when the older heads that were involved in the first title town, when those legends are telling you that you’re fulfilling the legacy, that makes this team feel legendary. Ever since our sophomore year, we’ve been close to state. I just feel like we have a real sour taste in our mouth and we want to bring that title back and get that 11th one.”

Bringing that title back to “Title Town” — and Boyle County potentially winning on Friday — is something that Jackson said he’d love to be a part of.

“I hope both Boyle and us win because it’d be nice to call it Title Town again,” Jackson said. “I want the best for both teams. That’d be pretty cool, especially having all of our younger siblings being able to look up to us, and us showing them what it takes to show them.”

Coach Clevenger said that it’s a special bond between father and son, something that he sees every day.

“I think it means the world,” he said. “You see the bond that these guys have with their parents, you see the dads up there watching practice, keeping tabs on their sons. You know it means a lot, especially when they’re playing as well as they have and are working as hard as they have towards this goal.”