The 2020 season was a special one for Hatton.
After multiple years of falling short in a tough region, the Hornets finally got over the hump, dominating Sheffield to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
2021 wasn’t supposed to be that.
Hatton had to replace nine seniors from the 2020 team and returned just two seniors. Facing another daunting schedule, the prospects of reaching the playoffs again seemed unlikely.
However, the Hornets overcame the odds, finishing 5-5 in the regular season and advancing to the playoffs for the second season in a row. Along the way they also defeated Red Bay for the first time since 1987.
Because of his role in helping lead the Hornets to a surprising season, Hatton head coach Denton Bowling was named The Moulton Advertiser coach of the year.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve learned you can only control what you can control,” Bowling said. “We knew we had a lot of work to do if we wanted to be successful and the kids bought in to that.”
While all coaches have faith in their teams, Bowling was honest about the challenges they faced.
“When our staff met before the season we identified the problem. The problem was we were losing nine seniors and two more starters and a lot of those guys were two way starters,” Bowling said. “To be brutally honest, with the schedule we faced 2-8 was a reality. But our coaching staff did an excellent job of recognizing what we could do that would allow us to be successful.”
What allowed them to be successful was a powerful running game. Running behind an offensive line that featured two first team All-State players, the Hornets gashed many teams on the ground.
But what led to the special season?
Bowling pointed to two games in particular. The first was a 38-20 win over Winston County.
“I thought the Winston County game was eye opening,” Bowling said. “I felt like they were comparable to us. So for us to go out and win the way we did, it was stunning.”
The second game was when Hatton upset Red Bay 16-14 for their first win over the Tigers since 1987.
“As much as you try, you can’t ignore the noise. We all knew the history, not having a win over Red Bay since 87,” Bowling said. “Going out and getting that win gave us a lot of confidence.”
Next season will be very different. With all but two players returning, expectations will be high for Hatton.
“Fighting complacency will be the biggest thing,” Bowling said. “We can’t forget what got us here. We have to continue to work to find ways to move this program forward.”