By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor
After an offensive snap is taken by the Strawberry Crest football team, the player wearing jersey No. 15 may be lost in the sea of big bodies. But when you look at the stat sheet at the night’s end, you will begin to take notice.
That player is Chargers quarterback Tristan Hyde, who is listed at 5-10 and 160 pounds, according to the 2012 Strawberry Crest roster.
Although he may not be the biggest, tallest or most athletic player on the field, he will gain your attention with his throwing ability.
In his first year playing varsity football, Hyde set records at Strawberry Crest, passing for 2,112 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was a key part of a much-improved offense on a team that made significant strides after winning just one game the year prior.
The Chargers went 4-6 this year with Hyde behind center and had several close losses that had them fall just short of their second .500-or-better season in program history.
The Strawberry Crest offense averaged 28 points per game in 2012 after being shut out four times in 2011.
STUDENT OF THE GAME
Although he just wrapped up his sophomore season, this past season was Hyde’s 10th year playing the game.
“I’ve been playing quarterback ever since I was little, starting with flag football,” he says.
Hyde’s dad, Tracy, was instrumental in getting him involved in the game and the quarterback position.
“He played when he was younger and wanted me to play as well,” he says. “He knew that the quarterback had to be smart, so he introduced me to the position.”
Hyde definitely fits the bill when it comes to that aspect — he has become a student of the game and is in the IB program at Strawberry Crest.
Hyde was on varsity his freshman year but was sidelined all season after fracturing his elbow a week before the 2011 preseason classic.
A year later, Hyde was thrust into the Chargers’ starting job after previous starter Trey VanDeGrift transferred to area rival Durant. In the 2012 spring game, Hyde didn’t get any snaps, because VanDeGrift was still with the team.
When word began circulating that VanDeGrift might be leaving the program, talk began about Hyde taking over.
“One of my friends texted me and said that Trey moved to Durant, and I thought he was joking at first, because word hadn’t got around yet,” Hyde says. “People started talking and asking me if I was ready for it.”
Hyde says a lot of people doubted him, saying he was too short and wouldn’t be able to see over the offensive line.
“I just used that as motivation,” he says.
Since beginning his freshman year, Hyde noted there was a large learning curve.
“It’s a huge jump from little league,” he says.
Hyde’s height always has been put into question, even before he took over as the Chargers starting quarterback.
“I’ve never been the biggest,” he says. “I’ve grown like two inches over the past year, so I’m steadily growing, and hopefully, I continue to do that.”
With the season now over, Hyde has been hard at work focusing on gaining weight and muscle while continuing to work on his football skills. And although height is something that is out of his control, Hyde says it means he has to be that much better than his competition.
“Every aspect of my game has to be perfect, because I may not see that well, but I have to know the plays and read the defenses to be able to make the throws,” he says.
Another issue Hyde and many of his teammates faced was the constant coaching changes at SCHS. Hyde has had two different coaches in his two years with the Chargers. Todd Donohoe, the program’s first coach, left the spring of Hyde’s eighth-grade year.
When the new coaching staff took over this year, headed by John Kelly, Hyde earned the starting job and didn’t disappoint.
“It’s been crazy jumping around with different coaches, but coach Kelly is a great guy and this past year has been good,” Hyde says.
Hyde thrived under the Chargers spread-style offense.
“At first, I think they weren’t really sure about me right after Trey left, because they hadn’t really seen me play,” he says. “Once they saw that I could make the throws, they’ve been real supportive of me the entire way.”
Hyde’s brother, Joshua, is a year older, but the two have played for the same amount of time. Joshua is one of Hyde’s wide receivers.
Hyde connected with his brother 34 times this past season, the second highest total on the team, behind only Karel Hamilton, the Plant City Observer’s Player of the Year.
“The relationship between a quarterback and a wide receiver has to be strong to be effective, so it’s helpful to have a brother that’s a receiver,” he says.
While Hamilton likely will be playing in college next season, Joshua returns this fall for his senior season with the Chargers for what should shape up to be a memorable one for the Hyde family and the Strawberry Crest program.
“He’s always there for me, and I’m always there for him,” Tristan says of his brother.