HATTON - The 2020 season was quite special for the Hatton Hornets.
After multiple seasons of just missing out on the playoffs, the Hornets finally broke through, stomping Sheffield 56-6 to punch their ticket to November's annual dance for the first time since 2015.
Now with that behind them, Hatton has hopes of getting there once again.
"That was a great experience for us, for all of us it was our first time ever," said senior offensive lineman Aiden Smith. "Now it's just about getting back, because we know we have to do it again."
Advancing to the playoffs won't be as easy this year though as the Hornets have to replace many key starters. Gone this year are the likes of Jaxson Mitchell, Carter Reed, Ridge Harrison, Brock Pace and Wil Terry among others.
To make things even tougher Smith is just one of two seniors, along with Michael Speegle, on the Hatton roster.
"It's funny because when this class was in seventh grade, those two guys were the only ones to play football," said Hatton head coach Denton Bowling. "Over the years we've added and lost guys from the class and now hear we are again with just those two."
"But there's not any two guys that I would want to ride with than Aiden Smith and Michael Speegle."
Smith will play an important part for Hatton's team, not only as one of two seniors, but as the leader of the offensive line. While the Hornets' skill positions were gutted by departures, they do return four of their five offensive linemen. That will be key as Hatton's strength will always come from the ground and pound.
"Last year we had some great skill players and it allowed us to spread the ball around the field," Smith said. "But with those guys gone I think it falls on us to pick up the load for the offense. I think you'll see a lot more of classic Hatton."
Smith knows he'll be counted on to be the leader of that group as well.
"I think it puts some extra pressure on me for sure," he said. "But the good thing is I know how good the guys are beside me, and I know I can count on them."
Despite missing out on the playoffs a few times, Hatton has been a model of consistency, winning at least five games or more while playing in one of the state's toughest regions.
This year, however, people don't expect much from the Hornets. But while the outside opinion may not be high, Smith thinks this team is capable of achieving just as much success.
"It's going to be a lot tougher because we did lose some great players," said Smith. "But all those years where we were winning 5 games or more, there was always one or two games we left on the table. Last year we broke through and won some of those games and I think that gives us a lot of confidence going into this season."