Something odd happened on the way to Dothan’s coronation.
It turned into a gut check.
Dothan overcame five turnovers and a 19-7 deficit in the second half. The Wolves took their first lead with 57 seconds left in the game — and still had to hold off a Lanier pass into the end zone on the final play — but won 22-19.
With the victory, Dothan (7-2, 4-1 in 6A, Region 2) earns the region championship, is the top seed for the playoffs and will open the postseason at Rip Hewes Stadium.
Lanier (3-4, 3-2) finished third in the region, behind No. 2 seed Eufaula and ahead of Park Crossing, which it defeated.
Had Dothan lost, it would have finished as the No. 4 seed in the region. For much of Friday’s game, the Wolves look destined for that slot.
Three costly turnovers in the first half dug a deep hole for the Wolves and the Poets were plenty good enough to take advantage.
The game opened with two three-and-outs. Lanier took its second possession 67 yards in 16 plays — mostly on the ground — and took 6:32 off the clock. The Poets converted on a third-and-5, a third-and-6 and a fourth-and-12 from the Dothan 18.
Quarterback Marquarius Moore dropped back to throw on that fourth down, but scrambled around right end and picked up 13 yards to the 5.
Two plays later, Alazavia Berry scored on a 4-yard run over left guard. Jacorian Wilson’s PAT gave the Poets a 7-0 lead.
Dothan shook off that early adversity with its own touchdown drive. Ty’bryious Webb gained 11 yards, quarterback Jamal Lane picked up 19 on a keeper and threw a slant pass to Jabre Barber for 13 yards and a first down at the Lanier 24.
After an offside call against the Poets, Webb gained 8 yards, Deante Ramey gained 8 and Webb scored standing up off right guard on the first play of the second quarter. Brody Barnett’s PAT tied the game at 7-all.
The Dothan defense forced a punt, but Berry picked off a Lane pass around the Lanier 30 and he returned it to the Dothan 13. Four plays later, he scored his second TD on a 2-yard run with 6:10 left in the half.
On its next possession, Dothan had the ball at its 39 when Zerico Purnell jumped a slant route and picked it off at the Wolves’ 45.
Lanier converted on fourth-and-1 when Berry picked up two yards to the 34.
Two plays later, Moore hit Jakobe Armstrong on a crossing route over the middle. Armstrong broke two tackles and won a race to the end zone, capping a 31-yard touchdown play. The kick again failed, but the Poets led 19-7 with 2:07 left in the quarter.
Dothan ran a nice two-minute drill and used a big play to get into scoring position. Lane found Barber for 22 yards and a personal foul penalty added more, putting the Wolves on the Lanier 13 with 39 seconds left in the half.
Lane took a keeper to the 2-yard line. After a timeout with seconds ticking down Barber took a handoff off right tackle, the ball came out and Lanier’s Jecorious Smith returned to near midfield before Barber caught him to prevent a bad play from becoming disastrous.
Dothan promptly fumbled the second-half kickoff. Lanier took over at the Dothan 30 but couldn’t take advantage as the Wolves’ Chevalie Condry had a sack-fumble on Moore on fourth down.
The Wolves cut their deficit on their first possession of the third quarter. Lane took a keeper 38 yards to the end zone. Barnett’s PAT pulled the Wolves to 19-14 with 7:44 left in the third.
Dothan appeared to get a break with field position after a shanked Lanier punt went 8 yards and set up the Wolves at the Poets’ 22 late in the third quarter.
However, a short completion was followed by a strip and Keldrick Jacobs recovered for Lanier on its 14.
Dothan got the ball back with 10:15 left in the game at its own 45. The Wolves managed only a three-and-out and the Poets got it back with 8:55 left.
Two very controversial calls went against Lanier as it tried for a clinching score. A third-and-7 produced a 26-yard apparent touchdown from Moore to a wide-open Michael Artis. It was called back on a loss-of-down penalty. Then on fourth down Moore threw a bomb to the end zone along the left sideline and Jacorian Wilson made a circus catch, outjumping two Dothan defenders, but was called out of bounds as he landed.
The Wolves took the ball back with 3:51 remaining and marched 69 yards to the victory.
Lane picked up 17 yards on a keeper and another 15 yards was tacked on because a Lanier defender chased him down without his helmet. That moved the ball to the 14. Then Lane ran around left end for seven yards and drew a late hit out of bounds, producing first-and-goal at the 3.
Webb gained two yards, then Barber took a direct snap off right guard and scored the touchdown that made it 20-19 with 57 seconds left. Barber also scored the two-point conversion.
Lanier’s Moore rallied the Poets as close as Dothan’s 33 with two seconds left. A desperate heave into the end zone was well defended and knocked away by several Wolves defenders to end the game.