MURRAY — While virtually all high school football teams were getting their collective feet wet with an early football game, Murray's Spartans sat in the stands.

Without a first-week game on the schedule, the Spartans were able to put in a little extra work fine-tuning what will be coach Dan Aragon's first season as head coach.

"We're pretty excited," Aragon said before the season began. "We've got a lot of the pieces we need to be successful. We just need some experience and some confidence."

Murray finished the 2006 season with a 5-6 record and a first-round loss in the 4A playoffs.

Aragon said the team has learned a few lessons from regular trips to the playoffs in recent years. Though reaching the field of 16 has been a benefit, losing in the first round hasn't exactly left the team with a load of confidence or a belief that the Spartans belong among the usual suspects for title contention.

"We've got to teach the kids that they really do belong there," Aragon said. "We have to help them have the confidence in themselves so they go out and compete every week thinking they will win."

Leading the charge this season is a big and experienced line. With guys like Zach Brackus, Will Katoa and Jared Tupa'i each pushing 300 pounds, Aragon's team should be able to run the ball well if a quality back steps up to replace last year's stars — Matt Wright, Kaderius Allums and Josh Fitisimanu.

Preston Hill returns as the quarterback after starting six games last year. He'll have to improve on his statistical showing of just 223 yards and one touchdown on 20-of-52 passing.

Aragon said the team has only five starters coming back from last year's squad. And though those five are good ones, there is a lot of inexperience up and down the roster.

"Right now," Aragon said, "we're trying to teach discipline and accountability. We can have success if we are disciplined and make each play count."

The Spartans will open the season at home on Friday with a contest against 5A Hillcrest followed by a second home game against Taylorsville the next week.

After that, Murray jumps right into its Region 6 schedule with a trip across town to Cottonwood.

Murray Spartans 2007 football preview

COACH: Dan Aragon steps into the head coaching role vacated by Keiko Georgalis. This is Aragon's first top job after being an assistant with the Spartans in recent years.

KEY PLAYERS: The Spartans have lots of size on the line with Zach Brackus (6-4, 285), WillKatoa (6-0, 285) and Jared Tupa'i (6-3, 330) holding things down. Preston Hill returns as the starting quarterback.

STRENGTHS: Size and experience on the lines will help Murray's offense move the ball.

QUESTION MARKS: With only five starters returning, Aragon is hoping the young players mature quickly. If they don't, it could be a long season for the Spartans.

PROJECTED REGION 6 FINISH: Seventh in coaches poll.

POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: Not good. The Spartans need to grow up on the field in a hurry. If key positions develop well, another playoff spot is possible, but a title run is unlikely.

2007 schedule

Aug. 17 — Bye

Aug. 24 — HILLCREST, 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 — at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 — at East, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 — at Granger, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 — WEST, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 — at Olympus, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 — HIGHLAND, 7 p.m.


E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com