Five years ago, Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare kept hearing one name.
Seventh-grade quarterback Hunter Fralick was drawing attention in Pop Warner, with many people urging Hare to attend one of the 12-year-old’s games. So, Hare heeded the advice, but watched only warmups.
“I didn’t even stay for the game,” Hare said. “People asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’ve seen it.'”
It was Fralick’s natural ability, combined with his endless hours of work, that now has the Cougars’ senior quarterback on the brink of local history.
Since 1970, only three Northern Nevada high school players have earned scholarships at the Division I level as a quarterback: McQueen’s Jeff Rowe in the 2000s, Hug’s Bart Hendricks in the 1990s and Reno’s Jeff Dankworth in the 1970s. Fralick, who committed to play for Nevada last June, will make it four.
“For as long as I remember, being a little kid, I was always reaching for the chance to play in college,” said Fralick, who leads Spanish Springs into a first-round Division I playoff game at Carson at 7 p.m. today. “I never really made it a goal to play in the pros, but it was definitely a goal to play in college.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Fralick, a starter since his sophomore season, ranks second in Nevada’s top-division high school record books in career passing yards (6,990) and third in passing touchdowns (48).
This year, he’s thrown for 2,028 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 1,077 yards and 16 more scores. Reed coach Ernie Howren, who has faced Fralick five times in his career, calls him a special talent.
“The athleticism that Hunter possesses, you just don’t see that at the quarterback position very often, at least not the kind of athleticism Hunter has,” Howren said. “It’s amazing to watch.”
With a strong, accurate arm and 4.65-second 40-yard dash speed, Fralick first earned recruiting interest during his sophomore season when he played against Del Oro High, one of the Sacramento area’s top football programs. After his junior season, “the floodgates opened,” Hare said.
“We went coast to coast with the amount of phone calls,” Hare said. “There was a two-month period where my wife just wanted me to sit down and eat some dinner. I was on the phone for about two months straight almost every night with some coach, and it was kind of the same message to them every time.”
Speaking with more than 30 colleges, Hare’s simple message was: This kid is pretty good.
Instead of playing out the recruiting process, Fralick made his decision before his senior year. He had offers from Nevada, San Diego State, UNLV and Northern Colorado, with more sure to develop.
With the recruiting process “feeling like a job,” Fralick set his deadline for June 5, which he relayed to Nevada head coach Brian Polian and offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, his lead recruiter.
“They were the first school that offered me, and I told them I was going to make my decision by June 5, and they said, ‘OK. Until you make your decision, we won’t offer any more quarterbacks,'” Fralick said. “They were faithful, and that told me they felt strongly about me. I thought that was pretty cool.”
Fralick, who also took an unofficial visit to Boston College, decided on Nevada for multiple reasons. It was close to home, so he could play in front of his family. He felt comfortable with the coaching staff and liked the campus. And he felt like he was the Wolf Pack’s No. 1 choice at quarterback.
Fralick said he didn’t grow up a Wolf Pack fan, more of a college football fan, but he likes watching the team’s current starting quarterback, Cody Fajardo. Fralick will redshirt next season, when Fajardo is a senior, before getting the chance to compete for the job.
“It’s cool that I’ll be there next year and I’ll get to watch Cody up close because he’s awesome and he’s somebody I’ve modeled myself after, from a toughness standpoint,” Fralick said. “We do a lot of the same things, although he’s better at them. He’s definitely somebody I’d like to be as good as one day.”
Hare said Fralick’s biggest improvement this season has been his ability to shake off a mistake, either by himself or a teammate. Howren said Fralick’s biggest jump has come in his running ability.
While Fralick didn’t pick Nevada specifically because of its Pistol offense, his skill set is a good fit for the scheme.
“There’s a reason Nevada was recruiting him, because he’s exactly what you want in that offense,” said Howren, adding that Fralick reminds him of ex-Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “You look at the type of quarterback teams are looking for at the next level, and Hunter is that guy. He has the legs to beat you and the arm to beat you, and I don’t think you could put one above the other.”
Before Fralick gets to Nevada, he has one goal he’d like to accomplish: winning the Division I North Region title.
Despite having the best quarterback in the region, Spanish Springs has struggled this season. Besieged by injuries, the Cougars finished the regular season 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the High Desert League. Fralick’s passing numbers have been down, too, because of drops by his wide receivers.
Spanish Springs enters tonight’s first-round playoff game against Carson a major underdog. But there’s one big reason it could pull off the upset.
“I definitely believe with Hunter on the field that we’re capable of winning any game against anybody we play,” Hare said. “At any time, he could just take the game over on the offensive side of the ball.”
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayRGJ.