Following a historic first win – one that happened to come over a state - ranked team – Dothan Wolves head coach Smitty Grider sensed a different feeling among his team late Friday night.
“I think they knew going in that we could win the game, but with the history they have had in the last three-four years, I am not sure they were convinced we would win the game,” Grider said. “But now they see what we are doing is going to give us an opportunity to compete with anybody, so they were excited.”
The Wolves knocked off No. 6 Wetumpka 54-41 at Rip Hewes Stadium for the program’s first win since the school consolidated this year. The non-region win came in just the second game after losing the season opener to ranked Clay-Chalkville 37-14.
It also gained a little notice state - wide as Dothan received four votes to the Class 6A top 10 from members of the media in the ASWA state rankings.
“It was huge,” Grider said. “We needed a win for the kids and their mentality more than anything. It doesn’t mean anything as far as our opportunity to make the playoffs, but it was important for our mentality of our football team.
“The kids have worked extremely hard and have bought into everything we are doing and for that to continue on the right track, we really needed that win. It was a huge win for us.”
The victory was sparked by an offense under the direction of quarterback Jamal Lane that scored eight touchdowns in 13 possessions and amassed 570 yards over 73 snaps in the game.
“I don’t think we could have played much better offensively,” Grider said. “Any time you put 54 points on the board, you have had a good night on the offensive side. Jamal continues to improve in learning the schemes and directing our offense. Our sideline video worked this week and our coaches did a great job of making adjustments.”
Lane, a senior, threw for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 10-of-21 passes and added 36 yards rushing on 10 carries.
“He threw the ball extremely well even though he missed a couple of open receivers,” Grider said. “Other than those two throws, he threw the ball extremely well. He had some opportune runs for first downs for us. He continues to get better and better, so really proud of where he has come and looking forward to him getting any better.”
The running game accounted for 351 yards with the bulk coming from junior Jalen White and senior Ty Webb before bruising junior fullback De’Ante Ramey rammed the Indians in the fourth quarter.
While Grider praised the running backs, he also felt the offensive line and O-line coaches J.D. Atkins and Chael Pridgen deserved a lot of credit too. In particular, Grider said seniors Nate Cooper, Joseph Kallio and Jordan Culver had standout games on the line, but seniors Braxton Willis and Jaylen Miller along with juniors Jacori Reeves and James Hall and sophomore Aaron Hunter all had solid games as well.
“We knew coming into the season that we had some really good running backs and that we should be able to run the ball effectively most nights,” Grider said. “Having Jalen White come in and give us that burst was really huge. He had nine carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns.
“ Ty Webb is continuing to be our workhorse and had a good night. He had 78 yards on 15 carries. That is above five yards (5.2) a carry, so that was a solid night.
“Then bringing our big running back De’Ante Ramey in late and being able to pound them. He carried seven straight plays down the field and scored. He ended up with 59 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
“Those three guys played well, but the credit really needs to go to our offensive line – coach Atkins and coach Pridgen have done a great job with those guys, getting them on the same page and being physical ,” Grider said. “ We were able to run the ball right at them and have success. That was really the difference in the game.”
In addition to the backs and the line, Wolves receivers also had a big game. Jayden Folmar had three catches for 87 yards with two touchdowns, Jabre Barber had four catches for 85 yards and CJ Shackelford caught an 11-yard TD pass.
The Wolves’ defense, though it allowed 41 points, had a strong first half, forcing punts on the first three possessions and a missed field goal on the fourth series before Wetumpka got its offense in gear. The Dothan D also earned two interceptions which the offense turned into touchdown drives.
Defensive back Jaylan Faison had 10 tackles and an interception and safety Fisher Parrish had nine tackles to lead the effort. Linebacker Preston Whitaker had eight tackles, while defensive lineman T.J. Lewis was a major thorn to Wetumpka in the backfield with a quarterback sack, two tackles for losses and five tackles overall. Donald Glenn, a linebacker, had four tackles with a quarterback sack and safety Colby Reese had the other interception.
Dothan now has to put the win behind them as it begins pursuit of its playoff goal with its first region game. The Wolves host Eufaula at Rip Hewes this Friday night. The Tigers (1-1) are coming off a 63-19 win over Beauregard following a 35-16 loss to a strong Wakulla (Fla.) team.
“They are a really good team,” Grider said. “They lost the opener to a tough Wakulla team that had a lot of really good players and came back and manhandled Beauregard, which is good Class 5A team. They have a lot of team speed and they are well-coached. It will be a challenge and they will come in fired up since it is the first region game.”
Eufaula quarterback Hess Horne threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns – all in the first half – off 13-of-15 passing in last week’s win, but Grider said the Tigers are pretty balanced on offense.
“They do have a good quarterback and they also have some good receivers who are big and athletic, but they have good mix of run and pass,” Grider said.