SPARKS, Nev. (BVM) – Tristan Szabo saw his first varsity action earlier than most, but that doesn’t mean it was a friendly welcome.
After showing early promise as a freshman on junior varsity, Szabo made his first varsity start at quarterback for Spanish Springs High School in week four of the 2017 season. His first opponent? Damonte Ranch High School and quarterback Cade McNamara, one of the most highly-recruited quarterbacks to come out of Nevada and an Elite 11 finalist who now plays for the University of Michigan.
The scoreboard result was a lopsided 34-3 loss for Szabo and the Cougars, but the early experience gave the young signal-caller a taste of what to expect at the varsity level.
“I was like ‘alright, this is big boy football,’” Szabo said. “It really pushed me because I hate losing, obviously. Getting those varsity reps as a freshman really helped me understand the game more and pick up on the speed of the game.”
Szabo said he didn’t have a great freshman season – where he threw for 980 yards and 12 touchdowns – but he capped the year off by leading Spanish Springs to an opening-round upset playoff win.
In the two years since, Szabo has started every game under center for the Cougars and has become one of the state’s best quarterbacks along the way.
Spanish Springs went 9-4 and claimed their first league title in program history in 2018 led by Szabo’s 2,308 passing yards and 27 total touchdowns. Last season, Szabo underwent another uptick in production that saw him throw for 2,700 yards and 37 touchdowns, both good for second-most in the state.
Check out my highlight – https://t.co/NYpJglSDBF
— Tristan Szabo (@TristanSzabo20) June 17, 2020
But Szabo’s favorite moment of his special junior campaign came in the regular season finale against crosstown rival Reed High School.
“I wasn’t having a great game, but my coach was like ‘Hey, you have to go down and score for us,’” Szabo said. “I’m rolling to my left with like 12 seconds left, there’s my receiver in the back of the end zone, I just put it right on the dot and he catches it. Pretty much game over.
“A special moment, one of my favorites from that season.”
The go-ahead touchdown pass with seconds left clinched Spanish Springs’ second consecutive league title and was Szabo’s fifth of the game. So much for not having a great game.
If you haven’t noticed by now, Szabo is a competitor who hates to lose and wants to chase perfection at every angle. So it should come as no surprise that the soon-to-be-senior isn’t exactly satisfied with finishing second in the state in both passing yards and touchdowns last season.
Coming for that number one spot😤 pic.twitter.com/51qF1OUWEH
— Tristan Szabo (@TristanSzabo20) May 29, 2020
Earning the top spot in all major passing categories is undoubtedly a goal for Szabo’s senior season, but so are securing a league title three-peat and winning the school’s first ever regional championship.
Szabo certainly has aspirations to play college football at a high level, even if Division I programs haven’t come knocking just yet. In addition to building off his junior campaign and leading the Cougars’ football program to new heights, Szabo said he plans to bulk up his 170-pound frame.
The extra muscle will come, and so too will college interest. But until then, Szabo is content with being the same underdog he was as a wide-eyed freshman.
“I have big goals this season, plus I like being the underdog,” Szabo said. “I have something to prove, I’m going to prove it and hopefully they (offers) start rolling in.”