Rawls Dothan pre

File / The Herald Tyquan Rawls (6) hopes to build off his four-touchdown performance from the season opener.

Wetumpka will be cutting some time off its travel this week but the Indians still have to take another long trip south to face off against Dothan. In the second year of the schedule, most teams for Wetumpka are familiar but this week’s opponent is not familiar to anyone in the state yet.

Dothan is in its first year as a new school after combining with Northview, which Wetumpka faced last season. The football team has seen plenty of growth under first-year coach Smitty Grider and there are still a lot of unknowns for teams attempting to scout the Wolves.

“That presents a challenge,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “Last year, we played Northview so if we were playing them again, we’d have a better feel for what to expect. This is like playing a new team for the first time so there’s a lot of questions still. We have to prepare for some unexpected things.”

Fortunately for Perry and his coaching staff, some of them had a chance to go see Dothan’s first game in person. The Wolves played Saturday as a part of a doubleheader in Alabaster when they faced off against Class 6A No. 5 Clay-Chalkville, ultimately losing 37-14.

“They’re a very good football team,” Perry said. “They’re very athletic; they have a lot of team speed and size. They played an excellent Clay-Chalkville team and the score was no indication of how close the game was. We know we’re going to have to play better in all phases to get ready for Dothan.”

Perry said he got the best look he could to prepare for a team with just one game under its belt but the Indians have dove into the film to get ready for the challenge. Dothan will use dual-threat quarterback Jamal Lane to spread the ball out to a variety of options on offense while the defense is expected to use a four-man front to combat Wetumpka’s rushing attack.

The biggest issue Dothan faced in its loss was taking care of the football. The Wolves finished with five turnovers, including four interceptions. Wetumpka forced four turnovers of its own in Week 0 and the Indians are looking forward to an opportunity for more.

“That’s kind of a game-to-game thing,” Perry said. “It’s part of the plan; you want to put defensive guys into position to make plays like that but you have to take into consideration that Dothan is going to work on correcting those mistakes. It would be great if we can continue to force turnovers on defense and we need all those we can get.”

One of Wetumpka’s focuses will be continuing to find a balance for Tyquan Rawls and Malik Davis to play on both sides. The two players accounted for all five touchdowns last week, including one connection for a passing touchdown, but they also helped the secondary to a big night. Rawls had one of the three interceptions.

“We’re going to do everything we can to do that but we also know because of their skill levels, we’re going to need them,” Perry said. “It’s a challenge for us to try to pick and choose when we need them and when they need to catch their breath. It’s a tough balancing act.”

This is the final tune-up before region play begins when Wetumpka travels to Calera next week. Perry said they are focusing on perfecting technique and scheme during practice.

“We just want to clean things up and get better execution on both sides of the ball,” Perry said. “We need to correct those busted mistakes we made so we’re not repeating those. Those are the things we’ll be focused on this week in practice. We want to be a better football team going into this week than we were against Fairhope.”

PREDICTION: Wetumpka 41, Dothan 21

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.