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Prep Football

Napa Valley Prep Football: Hatton is rewarded for winning on, off field

Thomas Hatton’s last two Napa High football teams were a combined 3-12, but the senior did what he could throughout to be a winner both on and off the field.

For his efforts, he was recently selected by members of the local sports media from a field of five Napa County “Lineman” nominees to receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Northern California Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.

The other nominees were St. Helena’s Cal Lehman, Justin-Siena’s Giancarlo Guerrero, Vintage’s Preston Gullum and American Canyon’s Tobyn Bunch.

Hatton was a winner in the classroom, earning a 3.57 GPA (3.69 weighted). He was a winner in the community, volunteering at the elementary school he attended, working school carnivals, helping at the Napa Senior Center, working with the Napa Food Project, and helping underserved students in Nicaragua. He also helped with Napa High fundraising events and help raise money to provide athletic equipment for Harvest Middle School.

He plans to pursue a college degree in kinesiology and exercise and sports science toward a career as a physical therapist.

Hatton got to enjoy a winning football season as a sophomore, when the Grizzlies finished second in the Vine Valley Athletic League and made the playoffs at the end of a 7-4 campaign.

He went from being primarily a defensive end as a junior last spring, filling in for only a few offensive plays at right guard against Petaluma, to being a full-time two-way player this fall at defensive end and center as a senior.

“We were severely shorthanded on our offensive line, with only one or two backup players who were mainly sophomores or juniors,” he explained, “so most of our starting D-line who were seniors had to transition to offense as well.”

Hatton led Napa High with 80 tackles (58 solos and 22 assists), 10½ sacks, 20 tackles for losses, and 25 quarterback hurries, leading the league in the latter. He caused two fumbles and recovered one, and blocked one kick. He made the All-VVAL First Team and was the runner-up for VVAL Lineman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

When he was a junior, the VVAL did not hand out all-league awards but Hatton still made the All-707 Area Code First Team. He made all-league as a sophomore, and was a North Coast Section Scholar-Athlete all three varsity seasons.

Let’s not forget his freshman year, when he was voted MVP of the junior varsity squad. He was a three-sport athlete the first two years, playing first base and batting .475 for the JV baseball team as a freshman before his sophomore season was cut short due to the pandemic.

This football season, with fewer than 30 players available because of a small turnout and injuries, Hatton was on the field most of each game and enjoyed every second.

“I liked playing both sides of the ball because as a senior you never want to feel like you didn't get the most out of your last season in high school,” he said, “and the more I was able to be on the field, the better. Whether it be a good block on offense, or a nice tackle on defense, getting to be on the field as much as I was is definitely something I'm grateful for.”

It's always good to have experienced offensive linemen when your quarterback is a sophomore in his first varsity season. They enabled young Napa High signal caller Yovani Palma to give senior wide receiver Christoph Horton a 1,000-yard season — 52 catches for 1,032 yards and 12 touchdowns — and fellow senior Raul Castellanos a 500-yard campaign — 23 catches for 503 yards and six touchdowns.

“It was a ton of fun blocking for Yovani, Christoph and Raul,” Hatton said. “We all saw the talent Yovani has as such a young quarterback and we knew that with guys like Christoph and Raul on the outside no one could really defend them if we gave Yovani enough time to do what he needed to do with the ball. It's always a great feeling right after a big play knowing we were the ones who allowed that play to be so successful by giving the time needed for it to develop.”

Hatton has been one of the school’s winningest wrestlers since he was a sophomore, when he finished 30-7 after finishing as the VVAL runner-up at 182 pounds and going 3-2 with two pins and a 6-4 decision at the NCS Championships.

After a league-only junior season in which all postseason competition was canceled because of the pandemic last spring, he’s looking forward to finally getting to improve on his sophomore postseason. He recently finished second to the No. 2 wrestler in the state in his current 195-pound weight class at the Liberty tournament.

“It was definitely a great experience facing someone so talented,” Hatton said. “I’ve been using it as motivation to get to that level and push myself to do better. I’m extremely determined to go much further than I had sophomore year. The hopes are to possibly make it to state, which I’m striving to do as I get better every day.”

Hatton is coming off a 1-9 football season, one that was winless until the Grizzlies defeated Sonoma Valley in their finale, and said it was fun despite their record.

“Sure it’s frustrating to lose that much, especially as a senior,” he said. “But those guys who stayed on that field with me even though we were losing are my family, and a lot of them have been since freshman year. As long as they were still coming out and having fun, I would do the same for them because I'll never quit or give up on my family.

“The bonds you form on that field are forever and I’d say I'm pretty good friends with everyone out there, which definitely makes it more fun to play. Some of them have actually been some of my best friends since elementary school. It’s funny because we have a group name called the “Strup Boys” I had been trying to get to play football since freshman year and they didn't decide to come out till this year, but having them out there definitely made it a whole lot more fun.”

Hatton was selected to play in this past Saturday’s Tri-County All-Star Game at Santa Rosa Junior College, but said he was unable to play because of COVID-19 exposure. It would have been his last organized football game, as he does not plan to play sports in college.

“Maybe if the opportunity comes up in the future, my mind might change,” he said. “But I’m really just excited to have my own college experience, and going just for academics is the plan right now.”

Among his extracurricular activities was spending a week in Nicaragua with the Outreach 360 project.

“We went for a week and helped teach the students English, which is required for them to attend the university, but I learned way more from them than anything,” he said. “I learned some Spanish, and a lot about their culture and what it’s like living in Nicaragua. It was an amazing experience and I really hope to do more trips like it in the future.”

The list of things Hatton has done in the community, for elementary school students all the way up to senior citizens, impressive — especially when he’s done them while keeping excellent grades and playing two to three sports for four years. He credits his parents, teachers Karin and Steve Hatton, for inspiring him and his two older siblings to be more than student-athletes.

“My mom and dad have always emphasized the importance of service and giving to and helping others,” he said. “As I grew up, they would always keep me involved by working around my sports schedules like on weekends or off weeks.”

Ana Andrilla, Hatton's school counselor the last three years, noted that he also volunteered with Napa CanDo to help those affected by recent wildfires in the area, and served as a counselor with the Napa County 4H Las Posadas Camp in the summer of 2019.

"The words that most reflect who Thomas Hatton is are insightfulness, persistence, loyalty and compassion," Andrilla said.

Along with taking Advanced Placement classes, Hatton also engaged in Career Technical Education classes such as construction technology and learned how to work on various aspect of home improvement.

Napa High teacher and former varsity baseball head coach Todd Pridy had Hatton in his U.S. History course as a junior and said he was always active in discussions.

"His ability to critically analyze complex material, question accepted norms, and assist those around him made him a valuable asset to me in the academic setting," said Pridy. "To find a young man who possesses the character, work ethic and drive of Thomas is truly rare."

Andy Wilcox's favorite Napa Valley Register stories of 2021

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Sports Editor

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.

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