MONTGOMERY – In sizing up Park Crossing going into the game, Dothan coach Smitty Grider said the Thunderbirds were the best 0-3 team in the state, if not the nation.
That evaluation appears to be spot on.
Park Crossing is no longer winless after a 42-27 victory over Dothan on Thursday night at Cramton Bowl.
It got out of hand quickly.
The Thunderbirds led 22-0 with still 6:23 to play in the first quarter after a 33-yard touchdown run, a 15-yard TD pass, a 25-yard interception return and a couple of 2-point conversions.
Less than a minute into the second quarter Park Crossing scored again on a short touchdown pass and 2-point conversion for a 30-0 lead.
The lone highlight for Dothan in the first half was a 50-yard touchdown bomb from Jamal Lane to Jabre Barber with 3:35 left. Brody Barnett kicked through the PAT to make it 30-7.
The momentum was short-lived.
On the first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, quarterback Jayvius Langford found Brandon Wilson running free for a 62-yard touchdown pass completion.
The Wolves (2-2) never recovered from the early onslaught as Park Crossing won for the first time in the Class 6A, Region 3 game.
It marked the return of Grider against a Park Crossing program he founded and coached to a 38-9 record from 2014-2017 before leaving for Hazel Green for a year and then taking the Dothan job.
Grider was encouraged that his team fought hard in the second half.
“Our challenge to them at halftime was, ‘Hey, look, we’ve got to quit worrying about the outcome,'" Grider said. 'We have to play every play like it is its own history, you know, and flush what’s happened before, good or bad. Just play that play and do our job every play.’
“I thought we played a lot better in the second half. We’ve got to learn how to play these big games like this.”
The coach said his team has to have a better mindset for road games.
“It was kind of like Clay-Chalkville (37-14 loss) all over again,” Grider said. “I think these kids just have to learn when we’re playing against a really good team on the road, we’ve got to learn how to start fast like we do at home.
“They’re (Park Crossing) no different than Wetumpka, or Eufaula. I’ve just got to do a better job of preparing them for road games on how to start games.”
It only took four plays for Park Crossing to reach the end zone for the first time as Adaryll Lewis scampered in on a 33-yard run. Langford connected with Khurtiss Perry on a 2-point conversion for an early 8-0 lead.
On the ensuing series, the ball was snapped over Dothan punter Cole Odom’s head and he fell on it on the Wolves’ 17.
Two plays later, Langford hit William Ford on a 15-yard touchdown pass. The try for 2 was stopped as Park Crossing led 14-0 with 6:44 left in the opening quarter.
The Thunderbirds quickly scored again when Jaden Taylor intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Langford threw to Jeremiah Walker on the 2-point conversion to make it 22-0 with 6:23 left in the first quarter.
Langford hit Ford on a 6-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion was good to make it 30-0 with 11:16 to play in the half.
The first time the Dothan defense held in the first half came with 6:35 remaining when the Thunderbirds threw incomplete on an overthrown pass on a fourth-and-5 play from the Wolves’ 41.
Dothan then finally got on the scoreboard as Barber got behind the secondary and made a nice catch for the 50-yard touchdown completion.
A play following the kickoff, the Thunderbirds scored the final points of the half on a 62-yard touchdown pass, making it 36-7 with 3:17 left.
Dothan showed some life to begin the second half in moving down the field on the opening drive to score as Lane connected with CJ Shackelford on an 8-yard touchdown pass to make it 36-13.
Park Crossing answered on the ensuing possession with a touchdown drive, culminated by a 3-yard run by Secedrick Crockett with 5:27 left in the third quarter. The try for 2 failed.
Barber then took the kickoff and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown. The snap on the extra point was bobbled and Park Crossing led 42-19 with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
Dothan moved down to the 1 with just more than four minutes left in the game when back-up QB Bauer Sharp connected with Barber on a 12-yard pass.
But on first-and-goal, the snap got past Sharp for a 7-yard loss. After a penalty moved it back 5 more yards, Sharp threw incomplete on second down.
On third-and-goal from the 13, a pass by Sharp was intercepted by Javier Taylor in the end zone and returned to the Dothan 28. However, a personal foul was called on Park Crossing during the interception and the Thunderbirds took over at their own 10.
Dothan got the ball back on the Thunderbirds’ 16 with 49 seconds left after Park Crossing lined up to punt but then threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.
On second down, Sharp ran to his left out of the pocket for a 16-yard touchdown run with 34 seconds left. On the try for 2, De'Ante Ramey ran in for the final 42-27 tally.