Danville and Mayfield battle again in state championship

Published 3:24 pm Friday, December 1, 2017

Two of the winningest programs in state football history will duke it out on Saturday at Kroger Field.

Danville and Mayfield have combined for 22 state championships across three different classes. The Admirals are 9-1 against Mayfield, with all 10 games coming in the playoffs. Danville beat Mayfield four times in the finals from 1987-1992.

This year, Mayfield poses a unique threat to the Admirals.

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“They do a good job getting a lot of guys touches and executing at the same time,” Ads’ coach Clay Clevenger said. “The more balanced teams are, the more you’ve just got to rely on your ability to be balanced defensively and be able to get on and off blocks and try to make tackles in space.”

Mayfield has two quarterbacks — Jaden Stinson and Connor Guthrie. Athlete Kent Trey Matthews has 22 touchdowns for the Cardinals — 11 on the ground and 11 receptions for scores.

Defensively, the Cardinals have 16 interceptions and have recovered 14 fumbles.

“They’ve got good quickness, good speed, aggressive linebackers that hit hard,” Clevenger said. “We’ve got to make sure that, in these types of games, it’s going to come down to blocking and tackling. It sounds simple, but that’s probably how it’s going to go. We’ve got to block and sustain blocks offensively in order to try and make plays. We’ve got to have a mindset of grind, too, if we get into a situation where we have to grind it out. They’re going to try and take away the big play, so you’ve got to be able to grind out drives and put points on the board.”

The game provides a unique challenge for Danville linebacker Darrian Bell: His cousin, Derrick Smith, plays cornerback for the Cardinals.

“We just met this year. It’d be nice to get to know him more, we don’t really contact each other much outside of social media,” Bell said. “It’s got that family thing, so you want to beat them so you can say that your team is better. It’s going to be a fun game, going out there and playing my hardest against my kin. That should be a fun game.”

Bell noted No. 6 — Matthews — as one of the players that he’ll be keyed on in Saturday’s contest.

“As a linebacker, I’ve got to be worried about their guards,” Bell said. “Most of their line is pretty good. I’ve got to use my hands, watch No. 6, we’ve seen that he runs hard.”

The two teams are well-matched across the board, Clevenger said. Both teams have dynamic offenses with multiple weapons, and both teams have defenses capable of making big plays.

“I think it’s going to be a good football game,” Clevenger said. “I think it’s two pretty even teams. I think there could be some points scored, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s not many points scored. I think it’s just going to come down to something like that. Field position, playing for field position, turnovers, you look back at our game with Boyle, we turn the ball over three times and they turn the ball over three times. You put those points to the board and now it’s a 24-21 game. It’s just a lot of those types of things that are going to come into play.”

Danville was in this same game last season against Christian Academy (Louisville) and lost 24-6. CAL beat Mayfield in the state semifinals last year, 48-24. This year, Mayfield topped CAL in the semifinals, 21-14.

Clevenger said that last year’s experience has helped his players with the added attention this week.

“I think they’ve done a pretty good job with it,” Clevenger said. “I think being here and doing this last year has helped us this year because you have that experience of it. We’ve done a lot of the same types of things that we did last year, as far as the pep rallies and things like that go.

“It’s going to be one of my big messages to my team, ‘you’ve got to go out and play.’ All the hype, all the trips down memory lane for some of your parents, that kind of stuff, it’s all great. But Saturday at 1 o’clock, you’ve got to be ready to play.”