It’s not really fair to say that a week three game could potentially make or break a season. However, this week’s matchup between Hatton and Sheffield could be just that.
To put it blunt, class 2A region 7 is loaded. Along with Hatton, the region features teams like Red Bay, Addison Sheffield and Colbert County.
To make things worse, it’s just a seven team region. In theory that sounds good, because theoretically you would only have to win three games to make the playoffs. The margin for error gets smaller though and in a region as tough as 7, it means that at least one solid team will be left out of the playoffs.
Last year that team was Hatton, who, despite having a 6-4 record, missed out on the playoffs.
Missed out might be underselling it as they were literally just a single point away losing 17-16 to, you guessed it, Sheffield.
“It’s one week at a time but it’s hard not to view it like that. Last year it came down to us and Sheffield and I think this year will be the same,” said Hatton head coach Denton Bowling. “It’s playoff time for us and I know they feel the same way. They’re treating it the same way we are at this point.”
You usually talk about playoffs when there is a cool nip in the air, not when it’s still blistering hot in the beginning of September, but Hatton is afforded no such luxury.
The Hornets face three of the four toughest teams in the region (Red Bay, Sheffield and Colbert County) in their first three region games, meaning they have to be ready to fight for their season right now.
“We’re going to go out and compete against anybody that we step out on the field against and it’s not going to be the end of the season if we lose,” Bowling said. “But there’s no denying that this is a crucial game for us. The good thing about it is we have a chance to control our own destiny.”
Make no mistake about it, last year’s gut wrenching loss will be fueling them.
“I 100% believe that it will. These kids have had to live with that loss for 52 weeks,” he said. “I don’t think our kids thought last year that we could win that game and then we went in and physically dominated them. If it weren’t for turnovers and mistakes we win. Now 52 weeks has wore on them and they fully understand what is on the line.”
Bowling likes that his team is in this position as it shows how far they have come.
“The fact that we’re able to sit and talk about playoffs I think shows the growth of this program and how far we’ve come,” said Bowling. “I asked them the other day how many of them had ever played in a playoff game and none of them raised their hand. They know where the road to the playoffs goes through and they're excited to have this opportunity. This is what it’s all about.”