SALT LAKE CITY — Prior to Thursday, Kole Tracy had taken just two snaps in a varsity game.
The 16-year-old had been on the field for Syracuse's sophomore games and on the sidelines watching the varsity team play.
But when starting quarterback Brock Anderson suffered a torn Achilles during the Titans' quarterfinal victory over Alta last week, Tracy was suddenly thrown into the spotlight.
He alternated time with senior Spencer Johnson for much of the first half of the 5A semifinal game against Bingham, then took over in the second half to lead Syracuse to a 21-16 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"This is a lot more than I ever expected it to be," Tracy said after the game with multiple TV cameras and reporters surrounding him. "I feel overwhelmed; I don't really know what to think. I just came out here to think it was a regular football game … it's not at all."
Despite being new to the varsity scene, Tracy played like a veteran. He completed 10 passes on 19 attempts for 129 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception. He also rushed for 18 yards and a touchdown.
"It took me a couple plays, but after the first one I caught onto it and everything started clicking. I just tried to play it like it was a regular football game," he said. "I just had to put my head down, trust my team, throw it to the wide open guy, and just try my hardest."
The Titans had the ball seven minutes longer and ran seven more plays than Bingham, which Tracy felt allowed him to adapt more quickly.
"It helped me so I wasn't sitting on the sideline wondering what was going to happen next," he said. "It got me out there so I could finally start playing the game."
Syracuse coach Russ Jones was pleased by the quick growth of his quarterback.
"You don't," he said when asked how to prepare a young player for his first start, especially when it is a playoff game. "All he has had is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, with a walkthrough last night. But he is such a great athlete and did just a tremendous job."
Tracy and Johnson will now have another week of preparation to increase their on-field comfort level before returning to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the 5A championship.
"As the game kind of progressed, we thought (Tracy) kind of had the hot hand," Jones said. "He's going to develop in the next couple of days. We'll sit down with him and study film inside and out, day in and day out. And our senior (Johnson) has to be right there to work with him, too, because we might be going with him too. You never know."