MARIANNA — Rutherford and Marianna faced off Friday night for the second week in a row in the first round of the Region 1-4A playoffs at Bulldog Stadium. The Rams were hoping for a different ending in the sequel to last week’s 26-12 Bulldogs victory in the regular season finale.
Instead, what they got looked a lot more like a remake. Marianna notched its second straight win over Rutherford 31-20 to advance to the region semifinals. The No. 4 seed Bulldogs improved to 5-5 and will next play top seed Raines on Nov. 16 in Jacksonville. Rutherford’s season ends at 2-7.
Damon Rolle was the star for the Bulldogs on Friday night, breaking off three long touchdown runs and finishing with 197 yards on 10 carries. Ahmad Johnson also rushed 11 times for 50 yards and Jeremiah Castro eight times for 37 yards.
Montell Bouie was the top ground gainer for the Rams with 51 yards and a touchdown on five attempts. Reggie Tubbs completed 12 of 21 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown, though he also was picked off three times, twice by Jaden Smith.
Just as they were in last week’s loss, the Rams’ errors proved too costly to overcome.
“A lot of turnovers tonight with the interceptions, some bad snaps,” Rutherford coach Loren Tillman said. “We were definitely more prepared this week, but Marianna also didn’t have to play three ballgames in eight days. Hats off to them, they played really well. (Rolle) is a heck of a player. When he turns the corner it messes up our angles.”
Rolle’s first touchdown came on a third-and-16 play on Marianna’s second possession, as he picked his way along the left sideline before finding daylight and exploding past the Rutherford defense for a 61-yard score to make it 14-0. His second TD came from 53 yards out on the Bulldogs’ second series of the second half to make it a 24-6 advantage.
Rutherford cut into the deficit when Tubbs hit Janathan Proctor for a 31-yard completion to set up a 30-yard touchdown run by Bouie with 4:24 left in the third quarter, with Antwoine Givens’ 2-point conversion making it 24-14.
After a failed onside kick, Marianna took advantage of the short field and paid it off with a 26-yard TD run by Rolle, the extra point by Victor Debeux making it 31-14 with 56.2 seconds on the third quarter clock. The Rams threatened to answer again with a drive inside the Marianna 25-yard line, but a deep pass down the middle by Tubbs was intercepted by Smith at the goal line and returned 35 yards with 8:02 remaining.
Smith picked off Tubbs on Rutherford’s next series as well, with the Rams finally adding a late touchdown on a 20-yard strike from Tubbs to Brian Edwards with 5.8 seconds on the game clock. Edwards caught six passes on the night for 64 yards and also had a 78-yard kickoff return touchdown late in the second quarter. Proctor had two grabs for 61 yards.
Despite being disappointed with the final result, Tillman said he was grateful that the Rams were able to finish their season on the field, especially against a Marianna squad that was also affected by Hurricane Michael.
“I’m still proud of our young men,” he said. “Both of these communities were really impacted by the storm and both communities can be pleased with the way the boys represented their schools, their communities, and these programs.”