MURRAY — The Murray High Spartans are on a roll, finding ways to win football games, as they did Friday night with a come-from-behind 21-17 victory over the Bountiful Braves.
Luck, skill, the charm of a transfer student-whatever you want to call it, the Spartans are now 4-1 in Region 5 and looking for bigger and better things than Murray High football has accomplished in a long time.
"This team has a lot of heart, that's all," said senior Dean Takai, whose 36-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes capped the comeback. "We've worked really hard, the coaches have great faith in us, and we're believing in each other."
Murray's victory came in a game not decided by long drives as much as by short punts-incredibly short punts.
Bountiful drew first blood after recovering a Murray fumble at the Spartan 14. Though the Braves couldn't get much offense going, senior Jeff Johnston was solid in hitting a 27 yard field goal for a quick 3-0 lead. Murray responded with a four-play, 80-yard drive, but 71 of those yards came on one play. Spencer Critchett took a handoff, broke over right tackle, then weaved to the Bountiful five. Two plays later, quarterback Ryan Potter scored, and Tyler Morrow's PAT made it 7-3.
As the first quarter drew to a close, Murray's next drive bogged down, but the Spartans got off only an eight yard punt. Bountiful took over at the Murray 35, eventually marching in for the score in eight plays as Lavell Ika dove in from the one. On Murray's next drive, another shanked punt went just seven yards, and Bountiful was in business again at the Spartan 26. Following a 17-yard completion from Jason Freckleton to Ika, it was Ika who eventually scored from the one to make it 17-7 with 6:43 in the half.
The opportunistic Spartans marched 56 yards in six plays just before half. Potter completed three straight passes, the final one a 42-yarder to Critchett with 32 seconds remaining, and Morrow's PAT made it 17-14 at halftime.
Both defenses held, and offenses stalled, until the final three minutes. Bountiful's chances were hurt by the loss of star running back Zack Wilson, who suffered an ankle injury just before halftime and never returned. The Braves were trying to run out the clock on their next to last drive, but when it stalled, a short punt gave Murray the ball at the Bountiful 30 with exactly 3:00 to go. Potter was sacked for a six-yard loss of first down by Jeff Holmes and Nick Binks, but then Takai took the handoff, spun through the line, juked a couple of defenders and sprinted up the middle for the 36-yard winner.
"I just keep telling them to take each game one at a time, each play one at a time. They're making things happen," coach Keeko Georgelas said of his team's four-game winning streak. Much has been made of the streak that began when Max Moala transferred to Murray. The Spartans haven't lost since and are now in second place in region with the state playoffs looming. Moala rushed for 54 yards, Critchett gained 88 and Takai 41 for Murray, while Potter completed eight passes for 74 yards. Ika led Bountiful with 75 yards, while Wilson had 72 yards rushing before injuring his ankle.