Last season, Marianna made it to the 4A playoffs and opened with a regular season rematch against Rutherford, winning 31-20 after beating the Rams 26-12 just a week earlier.


They open this year’s 4A playoffs Friday night with another rematch, though the Bulldogs hope this time the regular season result is reversed.


Marianna (6-4) welcomes in South Walton (5-4) to Bulldog Stadium for a Region 1-4A quarterfinal matchup at 7:30 p.m., in a rematch of a 30-27 victory by the Seahawks on Sept. 27.


South Walton rallied back from an early 14-0 deficit to win on a last-second 30-yard field goal by Gabe Hanson.


Senior quarterback Drake Roberts was spectacular for the Seahawks in the win, completing 27 of 31 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions.


“Oh man, I don’t know if he’s had a better night,” Marianna coach John Donaldson said of Roberts. “Going into that last drive he was 21 of 22 or something like that. He just could not miss, and those guys were catching everything he threw. They’re really coached up well and do a good job of executing what (South Walton) coach (Phil) Tisa needs them to do.”


If the Bulldogs are to turn the tables in the rematch, they’ll need to do a better job of containing the dynamic passing attack that helped South Walton win five of its final six games of the regular season.


That’s easier said than done, of course, particularly given how rarely Marianna sees such a pass-happy offense and how poorly it has fared when it has.


The last time the Bulldogs faced a pass-oriented attack, it was against Maclay in Week 9, and they lost 51-30.


“It’s tough to prepare for, especially when you’re a team that doesn’t throw it every down,” Donaldson said. “We’ll have to come up with some stuff to try to make a play and try to limit the big play.”


The best defense against an explosive offense is often controlling the ball and keeping it on the other sideline.


Marianna’s single wing attack seems well-suited to do just that.


“Well, you hope to,” Donaldson said of controlling the ball and the clock. “You try to put some points up with every possession being so critical. We’ve just got to do what we do offensively, just try to figure it out and keep moving the football.”


One thing the Bulldogs hope work in their favor is the experience that last season’s postseason run brought - not just the opening win over Rutherford but the road loss against Jacksonville Raines that followed it.


“I think it’s big,” Donaldson said. “We talked about it yesterday. Any time you travel to Raines and play over there in that environment, I don’t know of another place that compares. We have a ton of kids that were on that bus that night, through the playoff experience from last year, so we hope that pays off, just handling all the different things that the playoffs throw at you with new environments.


“Things are just different and how you handle that is big. Having senior leaders and experience pays off for you.”