By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Perhaps no position in sports requires a thicker skin than that of quarterback.
Every success is praised, every mistake is criticized and every decision is subject to scrutiny. When his team wins, he gets the credit. When it loses, he takes the blame. That is how Dylan Hassid likes it.
The junior has all of two varsity games under his belt, but he is already showing the poise and swagger of a four-year starter.
“Great team win, great bounce back from last week, we play hard and I love this team,” he said after throwing two touchdown passes in last Friday’s 35-6 rout of Fairfax.
Hassid gave glimpses that he would be good in 2019 when he was voted MVP of the JV squad, but his learning curve accelerated when the Dolphins’ highly-touted returner Forrest Brock announced he was transferring to Birmingham only days before the start of spring camp—forcing Hassid to step into the role months ahead of schedule.
“This is such a weird year,” he added. “I saw an article saying we started more sophomores last week than seniors and I was like ‘What?’ It’s really rare. Hard work is hard work but experience really helps. Even some plays tonight, if I had more experience I would’ve made better plays last week. But hey, we won the game, I did what I could and like I told all the guys last week I’ll get better and the offense will start moving the chains.”
Hassid struggled in Palisades’ first spring game at Venice, getting sacked three times while completing just three of eight throws for 18 yards. After four more days of practice, he looked much sharper and more at ease on his home turf against the Lions, connecting with Brandon Forrest for 19 yards on his first attempt. The two hooked up again on a 22-yard scoring play in the second quarter—Palisades’ first touchdown in 17 months.
“I was always ready to take over the job,” Hassid said. “I love playing quarterback… I really love it. Coach [Tim] Hyde texted me a week or two before practice saying Forrest is gone and the QB starting job is open. I told him if he’s there or not there I’m going to compete hard and I’ll come away with it.”
That might sound cocky from a player who had yet to take a varsity snap, but if there is one attribute a quarterback needs to succeed it is confidence—and Hassid has it.
“Once I learned our returning All-City QB was leaving 72 hours before camp started I told all the QBs we’d have an open competition,” Hyde said. “Everyone would get reps with the first team offense and Dylan won a very very spirited QB battle.”
For Hassid, Venice was almost like a trial by fire, but he survived.
“Probably the biggest thing I learned that first game is varsity football isn’t a walk in the park,” Hassid confessed, chuckling. “The second big thing I learned is we have a team that plays super hard every play. Even though we missed some assignments we play hard and that’s the recipe for success.”
Hassid and his teammates are using their four spring games to soak up all the experience they can knowing all but a few players will be back in the fall for what they hope is a full 10-game schedule.
“We’re going to start getting older and really feeling the game, the game’s going to start slowing down for me, I’m going to be more relaxed,” he predicted. “Same with everybody. The center’s going to start calling out blitzes—there’s so much we can do to be a great team. We’re just getting started!”
Having a short memory is high on the list for quarterbacks too, at least when it comes to shaking off mistakes. Hassid knows he will get an earful when he fails to spot an open receiver or stays in the pocket too long—but he takes criticism in stride and learns from it.
“You know what? I love Coach Hyde’s intensity,” he said. “I want to play football at a high level and he’s the realest coach I’ve ever been around. He has a pure passion for the game and I love playing for him. He yells at me a lot but I listen and the next play I’ll get better and I won’t do the same thing. Even in practice I had a couple bad throws, he yanked me, I came back in and started completing more passes.”
Hassid began playing football in sixth grade, first on the LA Valley Seahawks and for the last three years on the Westside Vikings (in fact, one of his teammates on that team plays for Fairfax High).
“I’ll be honest… Pop Warner was a struggle,” Hassid recalled. “I wasn’t very tall as a freshman. I was maybe five foot as an eighth- grader. I couldn’t see over the line, but I gained a love for the game. My first coach was a lot like Coach Hyde. He put me at quarterback and taught me how to play so without him I wouldn’t be here now.”
Being from Sherman Oaks, Hassid went to Millikan Middle School but he is grateful to be at Palisades, where his sister went.
“This is the best field in the country,” Hassid said. “There are not a lot of football fields right by a beach so you gotta love it!”
Although disappointed Brock is gone, Hassid learned much from his predecessor: “Yeah, he was always getting guys ready and he had some great games. I have a lot of respect for him and he’s going to play great in college. I loved competing with him in the spring as a freshman. Of course it helped my chances when he left but you can ask some of the guys… I got them out there, I was in full pads ready for the season. A lot of guys were complaining that we’re not going to have a season, but I was ready.”
Hassid is learning the ins and outs of his position—especially what it means to be a leader in the huddle and in the locker room: “As a QB you can never be comfortable, especially when you have a team around you. I have a net in my backyard. Before every game I sling a bunch of balls into the net, I always try to get three in a row from 15 to 20 yards out—that’s fun. Every day I go home and watch tape. I’ve gotta be ready for every game. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, but you prepare the best you can.”
Pushing Hassid daily in practice are four promising backups—juniors Jakob Brown and Adam Sadigh and freshmen Sammy Silvia and Zach Lifton—all of whom are eager for action, especially now that the Dolphins are not fielding a JV team this spring. Brown, in fact, was the signal caller for two series of downs with a running clock at the end of the Venice game.
“You can never be complacent, thinking like your going to play or the spot is yours guaranteed,” Hassid said. “You’re only a few bad plays away from being benched… that’s the nature of the position. I’m actually glad that we have other guys who keep me on my toes.”
With only two more regular season games on the slate and no playoffs, the long-term objective for Hassid and his teammates, even more than winning and losing, is gaining experience for next season, which is only four months away.
“After these four games we’re going to be a dangerous football team,” he said. “We’re all learning by the play, not just me and this is perfect timing. If everyone keeps playing hard we can be the best team Pali has ever had. Ever since I got here I’ve wanted to walk out with a City championship title and I’m going to take us there.”
Hassid threw for 170 yards in the Fairfax game and Hyde knows it is a gradual process: “I’m trying day after day to teach him how to do pre-snap reads. Dylan has taken his role as starter to heart and his willingness to learn has been great to see each day. He played really well versus Fairfax and I expect him to keep growing with every game. Given that 90 percent of this team is returning in the fall I see Dylan growing as a leader and being a team captain in 2021.”
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