High School Football

There will be two Mr. Football awards this year. Yes, you read that correctly.

Danville completes undefeated regular season

Danville defeated Lexington Christian, 44-28, in a high school football game on Friday, October 20, 2017. D'mauriae VanCleave had 213 receiving yards and three touchdown catches for Danville.
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Danville defeated Lexington Christian, 44-28, in a high school football game on Friday, October 20, 2017. D'mauriae VanCleave had 213 receiving yards and three touchdown catches for Danville.

The Kentucky Football Coaches Association during halftime of the Class 5A state championship game on Sunday will name a Mr. Football, its first time awarding an honor with that name.

The Kentucky Associated Press sometime in late December or early January will name its own Mr. Football recipient, as it has done since 1986 when Newport Central Catholic’s Frank Jacobs claimed the inaugural honor.

Whoever wins the KFCA Mr. Football could win the AP award. Or, perhaps, 2018 will have the distinction of being the first year with two unique Mr. Football winners.

Kentucky’s football coaches are put off by how Mr. Football has been awarded in recent seasons, and it’s hard to blame them: In the past few years just a little more than 15-20 active voters, most based in the western part of the state, have decided who will take the state’s top individual honor. Even in the internet era, with film and stats abundantly available, it’s hard to expect such a small group of media members to provide a representative assessment of what the state has to offer, especially when most only follow a handful of teams on a week-to-week basis.

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The KFCA Player of the Year in each of the six classes — determined from the eight district Player of the Year winners in each class, effectively making them semifinalists — will be revealed at halftime of that respective championship game (except in 5A, which will have its winner recognized before the game). Those six players will be named finalists for the KFCA Mr. Football award.

This year’s unveiling is condensed and might feel rushed, but KFCA ultimately wants the awarding of Mr. Football to be an event unto itself. The selection of Mr. and Miss Basketball — a process involving nomination and voting from media members (AP and otherwise), coaches and members of the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches — culminates in an awards banquet at the Lexington Convention Center immediately preceding the boys’ Sweet Sixteen. Those winners hear their names called in a room full of peers, family and media, whereas AP Mr. Football winners are notified via a phone call a day or two before the announcement is made public.

The KFCA recognition isn’t without its flaws. Players cannot win the KFCA Mr. Football award (or any other award the KFCA hands out) if their school is not a dues-paying member — meaning a non-member like Trinity could not have a Mr. Football winner. Voting is completed before the state finals, too, meaning an MVP-caliber performance on the biggest stage won’t have any impact for the KFCA award.

KFCA Executive Director Jimmie Reed said about 80 percent of the state’s schools are members but would not share who is and is not currently part of the association. Reed said voting “was not an issue this year” — i.e, a frontrunner like UK signee Wandale Robinson was not left out of consideration because Western Hills failed to pay up (to be clear, it has) — and that the awards process will be re-visited at its winter meeting.

President Clay Clevenger, the head coach at Danville, said more than 100 coaches voted.

“It’s something we’ll work on and say, ‘All right, we can do this better or we can do that better’ moving forward after we get this first year under our belt,” Clevenger said.

Josh Moore is a digital sports reporter who specializes in preps coverage. He’s in his fourth year reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he’s been employed since 2009. Moore graduated with a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication and English from the University of Kentucky in 2013.