Danville rocks Mayfield 35-21 in 2A State Championship
Published 4:13 pm Saturday, December 2, 2017
LEXINGTON — Danville has nothing else to prove.
The Admirals went the distance, finishing their marathon season undefeated after a 35-21 victory over Mayfield in the Class 2A State Championship on Saturday at Kroger Field.
Senior D’Mauriae VanCleave continued his tear through the playoffs on his way to game MVP: He had four touchdowns — two rushing, one catch and one punt return — and intercepted two passes.
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VanCleave is a member of a senior class that, for the past three years, took another step toward a state championship.
“The senior class, we went to semi-state sophomore year, state last year,” senior David Walker said. “I feel like we just used that as practice, we finally got our opportunity again and we had to capitalize on that. It feels pretty great.”
Danville took a 7-0 lead on its first drive of the game, capped by a six-yard touchdown pass from Zach Thornton to VanCleave.
Mayfield’s offense didn’t have much room early, but its defense made plays. The Cardinals earned a safety at the end of the first quarter to make the score 7-2.
Mayfield would score again on its ensuing drive, a 73-yard touchdown strike from Jaden Stinson to Jordan Harrison.
Thornton would miss most of a series in the first half after being hit hard on a sack, and the Admirals’ offense struggled to move the ball in his absence.
Immediately after Mayfield scored, Danville coach Clay Clevenger called a timeout.
“I think the biggest thing right there, obviously when Zach T went down, that kind of got us flustered,” he said. “The biggest thing was that we needed to settle down and play. I thought we did that after that play. We were able to hit the reverse to D’Mauriae for the big play and that kind of jump-started us.”
Walker said that he and his teammates knew that it wouldn’t take long to get back on the front foot.
“It doesn’t matter. We know that we have playmakers, anything can happen at any point in the game,” Walker said. “We just knew that we had to get the ball in D’Mauriae’s hands and he did what he does best, put seven on them.”
Danville’s next play, VanCleave scored on a 67-yard run.
And the Admirals wouldn’t look back.
“This senior class, this is a different Danville team,” senior Jaleel Warren said. “I think this senior class is the best group that I’ve ever played with my entire life. I just feel like we were all focused and we came in here and got the job done.”
Danville’s defense continued to stymie the Mayfield offense, and late in the second quarter, the Ads executed a two-minute drill to push their lead to 21-8 at halftime.
But the score wasn’t without controversy: Warren caught the touchdown pass from Thornton, but Mayfield’s cornerback had the ball when the two players came up after falling down.
The same play was ruled against Danville in its regular-season game against Tates Creek.
“It was a simultaneous catch, we were inbounds. It’s a touchdown,” Clevenger said. “It’s the same thing that happened to us earlier in the year against Tates Creek.”
The Admirals called timeout just before the play, and Warren said he knew the ball was coming his way.
“(Coach) just told me to go get the ball, be the big body that I am. When I saw the ball in the air, I knew that I had to go make a play,” he said.
VanCleave would score again on a 60-yard punt return in the third quarter, giving Danville a 28-8 lead entering the final frame, and the defense continued to do its job. Senior nose tackle Christian Hill lived in the Cardinals’ backfield, breaking up plays and forcing the quarterback out of the pocket.
“Christian’s our wardog on the defensive line, he sets the tone and he’s another kid that really has upped his game this year,” Clevenger said. “We didn’t have to play him both ways as much as we did last year. He’s so quick and explosive. We put him primarily at nose starting in the playoffs, and that’s really probably one of the big reasons our defense has played as well as it has in the playoffs.”
Another player who stepped up when the lights were brightest: VanCleave.
“What’d he do today? On the biggest stage, and really since the playoffs started, he’s upped his game to another level,” Clevenger said. “He’s a playmaker. I think there’s a lot of schools in the state right here that are being awful dumb not recruiting him harder than they are. That’s for sure.”
Mayfield would score twice in the fourth quarter, but one as time expired, to finish the game.
Last season’s title defeat drove Danville all season, Warren said.
“It made us more hungry. We wanted to come out and win,” he said. “We knew what we had to do to not have that same feeling that we had last year.”
Clevenger praised his senior group for coming in after that loss ready to get back to the state finals.
“It’s a special bunch of kids that bought in and really worked hard,” the coach said. “The seniors, a lot of them were for four years and they zeroed in, starting in January after having that bad taste in our mouth from last year. It went to work then and carried over.”
Walker said there’s no question about the Danville program now.
“I just hope people start respecting us now, 15-0, there’s nothing else anyone can say. It’s perfection. We’re state champs.”
Class 2A state championship
MAYFIELD 2 6 0 13 — 21
DANVILLE 7 14 7 7 — 35
DANVILLE — D’Mauriae VanCleave 6 yard pass from Zach Thornton (Nathan Hazlett kick), 8:38
MAYFIELD — Defin Jefferies safety, 0:26
MAYFIELD — Jordan Harrison 73 yard pass from Jaden Stinson (2PC rush failed), 11:41
DANVILLE — VanCleave 67 yard run (Hazlett kick), 11:22
DANVILLE — Jaleel Warren 11 yard pass from Thornton (Hazlett kick), 0:08
DANVILLE — VanCleave 60 yard punt return (Hazlett kick), 5:23
MAYFIELD — Kyle Hurt 3 yard run (Micah Haley kick), 1:40
DANVILLE — VanCleave 3 yard run (Hazlett kick), 2:03
MAYFIELD — Alonzo Daniel 39 yard pass from Stinson, 0:00
First downs 19 16
Rushes-yards 42-235 29-76
Passing yards 118 284
Total yards 353 360
Comp-Att-INT 13-17-1 24-38-3
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-1
Penalties-yards 4-22 6-31
RUSHING — Danville: D’Mauriae Vancleave 10-103, Don Harris 18-68, Zach Thornton 14-64. Mayfield: Kyle Hurt 10-47, Kent Trey Matthews 7-34, Connor Guthrie 5-14, Jaden Stinson 6-(-8).
PASSING — Danville: Zach Thornton 13-17-1-118. Mayfield: Jaden Stinson 19-32-3-250, Connor Guthrie 5-6-0-34.
RECEIVING — Danville: Vancleave 5-42, David Walker 3-32, Jaleel Warren 2-25, Tanner Ford 2-7, Harris 1-12. Mayfield: Jordan Harrison 6-130, Matthews 6-64, Jack Mear 5-22, Alonzo Daniel 3-48, Kade Neely 3-26, Stinson 1-(-6).