MADISON, Fla. -- Madison County has dominated its foes this season.

But now the playoffs have started, and the Cowboys know that their dominant regular season won't mean much if they lose this week.

Madison (9-0), the No. 1 team in Class 2A, opens the playoffs against Panama City Arnold (6-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Boot Hill Stadium.

Madison will go in clear favorites, but it won't be overlooking the Marlins.

"They're pretty good," Madison head coach Frankie Carroll said. "They've got a big ol' running back, and a quarterback and a good receiver.

"If we can take care of the football, we should be all right. You can't turn the ball over against anyone, especially in the playoffs. We have to do that and play solid defense, but if we do that, we should be all right. We're not going to do anything different; we're going to do the same things we've done all year."

Carroll knows that other teams would love to knock off his Cowboys.

"We've got a big old bullseye on us," he said. "Everybody wants to beat us because of the success we've had the last few years. We'll be getting everyone's best game. We can't let them beat us, though, because if we don't win now, it's all over."

Madison is excited about playing a playoff game on its home field. Last year, Madison made it all the way to the 2A championship game playing all its games on the road (FHSAA punishment for an incident in 2001). This year, though, the Cowboys would be at home the first three rounds before playing the finals at Gainesville's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (provided they win each round, of course).

"It's good to have a home playoff game," Carroll said. "Our kids like playing at home."

Carroll's only concern with his team is some minor injuries.

"We're a little banged up. Nothing major," he said. "I'm hoping we'll be able to heal up a little before the game."

Last week, at home, Madison defeated Daytona Beach Seabreeze 48-17. The Cowboys jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead, then played their younger players in the fourth quarter. Madison's defense sacked the quarterback seven times.

"We played well," Carroll said. "Seabreeze spreads you out with their passing offense, but we were able to get seven or eight sacks against them."

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Madison's Eugene Hayes, considered one of the country's top prep linebackers, was chosen the District 4 Defensive Player of the Year earlier this week. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Hayes has 98 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles this season.

"He's a special player," Carroll said.

Hayes was joined on the all-district team by linebacker Broderick Blue, nose guard Charles Evans, quarterback/safety Brian Peacock and wingback/tight end Charlie Graham. District 4 covers the Big Bend area of the Florida panhandle, and includes all seven classifications.

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