D’Mauriae VanCleave, an athlete at Danville High School, was the player I selected for Mr. Football on my 2017 Associated Press All-State ballot.
I’ve noted on Twitter since about late November that VanCleave was the frontrunner for my vote. Nothing happened between then and Saturday — when the final list of 11 candidates became available — to disuade me from that stance.
No, he’s not going to an FBS school (as of this post, he hasn’t committed anywhere) and he doesn’t have multiple stars next to his name on recruiting sites. But, when comparing VanCleave to whom I believe to be the next most-deserving candidates — Covington Catholic’s AJ Mayer and Trinity’s Rondale Moore — his numerous contributions on both sides of the ball throughout a four-year career, capped by a state title at one of Kentucky’s most prolific football schools, make the difference in my consideration.
I expect either Mayer — a record-setting quarterback who’s signed with Miami of Ohio and guided CovCath to its first undefeated season — or Moore — a four-star wide receiver headed to Purdue who helped Trinity win back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017 after transferring into the program from Indiana — to take home the honor, and either would be a deserving winner. But so would VanCleave.
Mayer and Moore played large parts in their teams’ successes but I believe VanCleave would have been missed the most of the three if all were removed from the equation. CovCath’s defense was arguably better than its offense, and Trinity was an annual title favorite before Moore arrived and will be long after he graduates in the spring. Danville has talent at other positions, but taking VanCleave’s speed away from its offense, defense and special teams absolutely would have made winning a title a much steeper feat for the Class 2A Admirals; instead, with him, they played in back-to-back title games with different starting quarterbacks each season.
Here’s my entire All-State ballot, which was submitted to the Associated Press on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018.
D’Mauriae VanCleave, Danville
COACH OF THE YEAR
Todd Adler, Logan County
Quarterback: AJ Mayer, Covington Catholic
Running backs: Dillon Wheatley, Lexington Christian; Wandale Robinson, Western Hills
Wide receivers: D’mauriae VanCleave, Danville; Rondale Moore, Trinity; Reese Smith, Boyle County
Offensive linemen: Bryan Hudson, Scott County; Ethan Bingham, Johnson Central; Trey Livingood, Madison Southern; Will Bramel, Boyle County; Wyatt Smock, St. Xavier
Kicker: Sebastian Mata, Trinity
Defensive linemen: Stephen Herron, Trinity; Jacob Lacey, South Warren; Tyrese Allen, Paintsville; JJ Weaver, Moore
Linebackers: Carter Smith, Madison Southern; Kam Butler, Covington Catholic; Derek Wellman, Belfry
Defensive backs: Kadin Smith, Spencer County; Jairus Brents, Waggener; Shannon Bishop, Pleasure Ridge Park; Trevon Faulkner, Mercer County
Punter: Chase Estep, Corbin
Quarterback: Nick Bohn, Trinity; Wand
Running backs: Brice Fryman, Scott County; Jake Chisholm, Ryle
Wide receivers: JP Vaught, Southwestern; Marquel Tinsley, Daviess County; Titus Ransom, Bourbon County
Offensive linemen: Shawn Woods, Franklin-Simpson; Jack Randolph, Franklin-Simpson; Tanner Bowles, Glasgow; Parker Bisek, Ryle; Zack Ferris, Pulaski County
Kicker: Luke Lemaster, Raceland
Defensive linemen: Ricky Barber, Doss; Christian Hill, Danville; Dayton Leblanc, Frederick Douglass; Collin Preston, Franklin-Simpson
Linebackers: Jackson Juett, Madison Central; Ean Shaw, Lafayette; Justice Dingle, Bowling Green
Defensive backs: Glenn Covington, Scott County; Ramond Jackson, Henry Clay; Trel Riley, Caldwell County; Jaden Baird, Tates Creek
Punter: Riley Woods, Wayne County