High School Football

‘Speechless.’ Small-school standout wins the 2017 Kentucky Mr. Football award

Danville's D’Mauriae VanCleave runs against Mayfield during the Class 2A Russell Athletics KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, December 2, 2017.
Danville's D’Mauriae VanCleave runs against Mayfield during the Class 2A Russell Athletics KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, December 2, 2017.

Eleven football teams at Danville High School have won state titles, but it was the most recent titlist that achieved something no other before it did in the program’s 106 years of existence.

D’Mauriae VanCleave, a 5-foot-7 athlete who played multiple positions in his four-year career with the Admirals, was named the 2017 Mr. Football winner by the Associated Press on Thursday.

He became the first Danville player to win the award — considered the highest individual honor in the state — and the third player from the city of Danville to take home the honor; Boyle County’s Jeff Duggins and Lamar Dawson won in 2001 and 2010, respectively.

VanCleave is the 32nd recipient of the award, which was first issued to Frank Jacobs (Newport Central Catholic) in 1986. He became the award’s fifth winner to hail from central Kentucky, joining Dawson, Duggins, Jeremy Simpson (Lincoln County, 1993) and Dennis Johnson (Harrodsburg, 1997). In December he was named to the Herald-Leader’s Class of the Commonwealth team and to the Louisville Courier-Journal’s All-State team.

“I’m a little bit speechless to be honest with ya,” said Danville Coach Clay Clevenger. “To know how hard he’s worked in a lot of facets of his life, not just on the football field … that’s what is most rewarding, I think.”

VanCleave ended his career at Danville with 3,012 receiving yards, which would be good for 18th all-time in state history, on 220 receptions (seventh-most in history). He rushed for 1,317 career yards and scored 73 total touchdowns to go along with 112 tackles and 16 interceptions on defense.

As a senior he recorded 82 catches for 1,095 yards and 14 TDs and rushed for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns on 72 carries en route to a 15-0 season and a Class 2A state title, Danville’s first championship since 2003.

“He really affected a lot of games in three phases, which makes him a complete football player,” Clevenger said. “ … He’s just such an explosive player. He’s so quick and his vision is so good. The hard thing, I’m sure, with game-planning for him is you don’t ever know where you’re gonna hit. Jet sweeps are meant to go outside and he’s liable to hit it back side. It’s really hard to know where he’s gonna end up.”

Danville's D’Mauriae VanCleave (7) ran by Lexington Christian's Jonathan Kaufmann (34) as Danville hosted Lexington Christian on Friday Nov. 17, 2017 in Danville, Ky. Mark Mahan

VanCleave was its first winner, but Danville has had a few contenders in the past, among them Donnie Redd (who played at UK), Chester Ford (Tennessee) and Clevenger.

“I didn’t have a chance at winning it. That was (Tim) Couch’s senior year,” Clevenger said with a laugh.

The Danville head coach noted that VanCleave’s size was the main reason he was something of an unknown throughout his career in regards to recruiting fanfare compared to some of the other Mr. Football finalists announced earlier this month.

“If he’s 5-10, he’s probably getting recruited by every Division I school in the country,” Clevenger said.

As of Saturday, VanCleave’s only Division I scholarship offer was from Wofford College, a Football Championship Subdivision program in South Carolina. He received that offer during a visit to the school last Sunday. Clevenger said that visit went “great.”

Every University of Kentucky football signing class has included at least one in-state player since 1939, which is as far back as available records show. Heading into Saturday the Wildcats were not expected to sign an in-state player as part of their 2018 recruiting class.

UK has expressed interest in VanCleave as a preferred walk-on. Clevenger was asked if the combination of VanCleave winning Mr. Football and UK’s streak of in-state players being in jeopardy might encourage the school to extend a scholarship offer.

“I don’t think it’d be a waste of a scholarship. I don’t think it’s something where you’re just throwing it out to somebody. I think he’s somebody, because of his skill set, could find a way on the field whether it be special teams or in packages or something out.”

“You don’t see a lot of kids that run 4.3 forty at any level.”

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

2017 Associated Press All-State Football Teams

The 2017 Associated Press Kentucky High School All-State first and second teams, as selected by 17 media representatives from across the state:


Quarterback: AJ Mayer, Covington Catholic

Running Back: Jake Chisholm, Ryle

Running Back: Wandale Robinson, Western Hills

Wide Receiver: Rondale Moore, Louisville Trinity

Wide Receiver: D’mauriae Vancleave, Danville

Wide Receiver: Reese Smith, Boyle County

Offensive Lineman: Will Bramel, Boyle County

Offensive Lineman: Wyatt Smock, Louisville St. Xavier

Offensive Lineman: Bryan Hudson, Scott County

Offensive Lineman: Ethan Bingham, Johnson Central

Offensive Lineman: Zack Ferris, Pulaski County

Kicker: Alex Cohron, South Warren


Defensive Lineman: Tyrese Allen, Paintsville

Defensive Lineman: Jacob Lacey, South Warren

Defensive Lineman: Stephen Herron, Louisville Trinity

Defensive Lineman: Tahj Rice, Louisville Waggener

Linebacker: Justice Dingle, Bowling Green

Linebacker: Kam Butler, Covington Catholic

Linebacker: Kyle Hurt, Mayfield

Defensive Back: Jairus Brents, Louisville Waggener

Defensive Back: Cory Trice, Christian County

Defensive Back: Shannon Bishop, Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park

Defensive Back: Trevon Faulkner, Mercer County

Punter: Riley Woods, Wayne County


Quarterback: Nick Bohn, Louisville Trinity

Running Back: Jay Becherer, Elizabethtown

Running Back: Patric Edwards, Southwestern

Running Back: Chase Estep, Corbin

Wide Receiver: Milton Wright, Louisville Christian Academy

Wide Receiver: Marquel Tinsley, Daviess County

Wide Receiver: Trevor Grant, Graves County

Wide Receiver: Ziyon Kenner, Bowling Green

Offensive Lineman: Charles Allen, Louisville Doss

Offensive Lineman: Tanner Bowles, Glasgow

Offensive Lineman: Trey Livingood, Madison Southern

Offensive Lineman: Trevor Terrell, Mayfield

Offensive Lineman: Austin Huddleston, Whitley County

Kicker: Sebastian Mata, Louisville Trinity


Defensive Lineman: Arak McDuffie, Louisville Trinity

Defensive Lineman: Dayton Leblanc, Frederick Douglass

Defensive Lineman: Matt Horn, Johnson Central

Defensive Lineman: J.J. Weaver, Louisville Moore

Linebacker: Carter Smith, Madison Southern

Linebacker: Derek Wellman, Belfry

Linebacker: Luke Bowman, Louisville Central

Defensive Back: Glenn Covington, Scott County

Defensive Back: Kadin Smith, Spencer County

Defensive Back: Trel Riley, Caldwell County

Defensive Back: Devin Varney, Belfry

Punter: Chase Estep, Corbin

Mr. Football

D’mauriae VanCleave, Danville

Coach of the Year

Todd Adler, Logan County


QB: Alec Poore, Williamsburg; Zach Thornton, Danville; Wiley Cain, Pulaski County; Lorenzo Linsey, Wayne County; Joey Cambron, Daviess County; Jayden Stinson, Mayfield; Dylan Wilson, Whitley County; J.R. Lucas, Collins; Braxton Ratliff, Ashland Blazer; Camron Sizemore, Corbin.

RB: Alex Dowds, Campbell County; Blake Gamble, Johnson Central; Dillon Wheatley, Lexington Christian; Colby Frazier, Bell County; Preston Tucker, Casey County; Matthew Sizemore, North Laurel; Laron Warner, Lexington Tates Creek; Kent Matthews, Mayfield; Tre Bass, Franklin-Simpson; Taveon Hunter, Belfry; Quintin Mickens, Harlan County; Landan Swartz, Bath County; Brice Fryman, Scott County; Dalton Cook, Lynn Camp; Donlevy Harris, Danville; Bryson Cobb, LaRue County; Charles Collins, Montgomery County; Jameer Riley, Caldwell County; TaeShawn Allen, McCracken County.

WR: JP Vaught, Southwestern; Titus Ransom, Bourbon County; Josh Cornett, Somerset; Jason Jones, Bell County; Jake Sloan, Pulaski County; Nick Martin, Knox Central; Gavin Marschand, Hopkinsville; Eli Mattingly, Williamsburg; Drew Cox, Ballard Memorial; Ethan Bibb, Louisville Male; Ethan Dossett, Crittenden County; Tanner Smith, Paintsville; Josh Lifson, Louisville Ky. Country Day; Jacob Lightfoot, Allen County-Scottsville; Peyton Peters, Apollo; Dalton Adkins, Raceland; Britt Pendleton, Casey County; Cayden Ross, Allen County-Scottsville.

OL: Shawn Woods, Franklin-Simpson; Chase Farris, Louisville St. Xavier; Nick Olsofka, Louisville Christian Academy; Zach Jones, Central Hardin; Jacob Ballard, Lexington Catholic; Luke McCune, Montgomery County; Bradyn Hunter, Pikeville; Leo Doran, Mayfield; Jack Randolph, Franklin-Simpson; Parker Bisek, Ryle; Wyatt Southall, Lexington Christian; Hunter Madden, North Laurel; Austin Campbell, Casey County; John Stone, Ashland Blazer; Chase Owens, Johnson Central; Preston Puckett, Graves County; Andrew Baker, Harlan County; Barrett Hendley, Mayfield; Devin Jeffries, Mayfield; Damon Stephens, Logan County; Clayton Cruise, Lexington Tates Creek; Lawson Fletcher, Greenwood; Dane Jackson, Madison Southern; Trevor Lawson, Lynn Camp; Jamison Harkness, Hart County; Reed York, Murray; Christian Lawson, Graves County; Dalton Kindt, Mason County; Matt Mellencamp, Warren East; Evan Urbina, Greenup County; Ben Jackson, George Rogers Clark; Colson Elkins, Warren East; Ethan Ponton, Garrard County; Dalton Tucker, Bourbon County; Tanner Goodlett, South Oldham; Jayshaun Milliken, Paducah Tilghman; Blake Hammonds, Madison Central; Collin Allen, Casey County; Michael Dunn, Highlands.

K: Marcus Kelly, Harlan County; Luke Lemaster, Raceland; Lance Butler, Paducah Tilghman; Nick Kopp, Louisville DuPont Manual.

DL: Josh Williams, Southwestern; Qutorious Cherry, Mayfield; Noah Peeler, Elizabethtown; Junior Jones, Ashland Blazer; Justin Fairchild, Raceland; Izaiah Reed, John Hardin; Austin Reed, Bath County; Cody Auxier, Louisville Trinity; Caden McKinnis, Logan County; Ethan Baird, Harlan County; Devan Jackson, Bowling Green; Evan Alford, North Laurel; Collin Hartmann, Somerset; Collin Preston, Franklin-Simpson; Dalliss Cox, LaRue County; Christian Hill, Danville; Mitchell Paycheck, Boyle County; Octavious Oxendine, North Hardin; Kendric Williams, Elizabethtown; Ricky Barber, Louisville Doss; Adam Derry, Beechwood; Tyus Ferguson, Raceland; Cole Baker, Caldwell County; Darius Cain, McCracken County; Dawson Stalker, Johnson Central; Dion Pearson, Franklin-Simpson; Blaze Stewart, Rockcastle County; Pereon Allen, Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park; Logan Barnett, Rockcastle County; Jalin Benson, Franklin County.

LB: Garry Henson, Harlan County; Hunter VanHooser, Caldwell County; Hunter Brown, Williamsburg; Tucker Holland, Knox Central; Skylar Mayes, McCracken County; Isaiah Boards, Warren East; Eythan Sims, Corbin; A.J. Glenn, Casey County; Nate Eads, Madison Southern; Payton Hatcher, Somerset; Sebastian Wagoner, Middlesboro; Josh Volentine, Central Hardin; Joseph Becherer, Elizabethtown; James Baker, Franklin-Simpson; Chad Holleran, Franklin County; Jackson Juett, Madison Central; Jaylyn Allen, Paintsville; Jehdon Jenkins, George Rogers Clark; Chase Puyear, LaRue County; Ean Shaw, Lexington Lafayette; Grant Dyer, Covington Catholic; Cody Goatley, Graves County; Cade Harvey, Franklin-Simpson; Berk Watts, Scott County; Konner Hargis, Pulaski County; Jalen Lawson, Lexington Lafayette; Pete Cross, South Warren; Omari Milligan, Louisville DeSales; Nick Eades, Collins; Tykeise Henry, Mason County; William Cox, Paris.

DB: Matthew Sizemore, North Laurel; Tyrese Simmons, Harlan County; Nick Walker, Boyle County; Antonio Zachery, Bell County; Greg Byrd, South Warren; Marshon Ford, Louisville Ballard; Preston Yount, Whitley County; Kiael Waldon, McCracken County; Logan Lambdin, Whitley County; Jermel Carton, Knox Central; TreVon Jones, George Rogers Clark; Tavian Starks, North Hardin; Jaden Baird, Lexington Tates Creek; Ramond Jackson, Lexington Henry Clay; DaJuan Davis, Frankfort; Hunter Hancock, Graves County; Greg Barnes, Warren East; Trey Hutchison, Union County; Ty Tevis, Somerset; Tyler Peters, Anderson County; Marcis Floyd, Louisville DuPont Manual; Damon Durrah, Louisville Fern Creek.

P: Kyle Nalley, Louisville St. Xavier; Brayden Oberhausen, Louisville Fern Creek.

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