There was a chance that the Class 2A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl championship game could be remembered for a controversial call. By the end of the contest, though, there was no doubt which team deserved the “W.”
Danville defeated Mayfield, 35-21, for the Class 2A title Saturday afternoon at Kroger Field. It was the 11th title and first since 2003 for the Admirals, who finished with a 15-0 record.
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D’Mauriae VanCleave was a menace in all phases for Danville. He rushed 10 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, caught five passes for 42 yards and one TD and returned a punt for a TD. He also had two interceptions for the Admirals. That all-around performance earned him game MVP honors.
Danville lost to Christian Academy of Louisville, 24-6, in last season’s Class 2A championship. The Admirals took a 7-0 lead on their first possession Saturday but surrendered it after Mayfield (13-2) came up with a safety near the end of the first quarter and then converted a long touchdown pass to open the second quarter. VanCleave rushed 67 yards for a TD on Danville’s next play from scrimmage and the Admirals never looked back.
“Our preparation was just different than last year and we just knew what we had to do,” VanCleave said. “ ... We knew coming into the game that they weren’t a bad team and, obviously, they’re not here for no reason. So, them coming out and responding, we just knew we had to keep our foot on the pedal and not let up.”
VanCleave, who finished his senior season with 1,095 receiving yards, 762 rushing yards and 29 TDs, will likely be a Mr. Football candidate. He finished his career with 70 total TDs, 3,012 receiving yards and 1,317 rushing yards.
Danville Coach Clay Clevenger was asked about VanCleave’s chances of winning the award.
“What’d he do today?” Clevenger said with a smirk. “On the biggest stage, and really since the playoffs started, he’s upped his game another level. He’s a playmaker, and I think there’s a lot of schools in-state right here that are being awfully dumb not recruiting him any harder than they are, that’s for sure.”
With eight seconds left in the second half, an official ruled that Danville’s Jaleel Warren caught a touchdown pass. Video and photo review showed that the catch may have been intercepted by a Mayfield defender. It gave Danville a 21-8 halftime lead.
By NFHS playing rules the play was considered a simultaneous catch. Article 3 under the “Catch” rules says “a simultaneous catch or recovery is a catch or recovery in which there is joint possession of a live ball by opposing players who are inbounds.” In such a scenario, a ruling should be made in favor of the offensive player.
Clevenger thought the play was pretty cut-and-dried.
“I thought we scored a touchdown. It was a simultaneous catch and we were inbounds, so it’s a touchdown,” Clevenger said. “The same thing happened to us earlier in the year against Tates Creek.”
The reported attendance of 7,398 was the most for a Class 2A championship game since 2012, when 8,756 fans watched Newport Central Catholic defeat Caldwell County, 30-26, in Bowling Green. It was an increase of more than 2,000 fans compared to last year’s finals.
State football finals at Kroger Field in Lexington
Class 6A: Trinity (14-0) vs. St. Xavier (12-2), 2 p.m.