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High school football: Murray Spartans 2018 preview

Note: Murray finished with a 2-7 overall record in 2017 and was fifth in Region 6 with a 1-4 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.

Murray 2017 Offensive and Defensive Stats

MURRAY — The Spartans of Murray struggled in 5A during the 2017 season, ending the year with a 2-6-0 record. Several of the team's losses were by 30 points or more with the only wins coming against West and Hillcrest.

Head coach Todd Thompson, who is in his second season of ever coaching high school football, will have to make major offensive and defensive improvements to the line-up to make Murray a winning team in the 2018 season.

"We have the talent to be in the top two seeds in our region and host a playoff game — that's our goal," Thompson said.

There will be several key offensive and defensive players this year including Jordan Searle (WR), Colton Gardner (LB & OL) and Jackson Rose (OL & LB) to help the team to a better record. Together the trio has recorded 58 tackles, 163 yards and one touchdown.

"There's a handful of kids who continue to lead vocally and by example — those three primarily," Thompson said.

Along with Thompson, offensive and defensive coordinators Nate Hoggan and Ashley McSwain have made significant changes on both offense and defense to help the team find a flow. The only positions that are left to question are quarterback and tight end. Junior Jarret Henricksen, a player who had some varsity experience last year, will most likely be the team's starting quarterback.

The Spartans kick off the season on Aug. 17 against Cyprus at 7 p.m.

Murray Spartans at a glance

Coach: Todd Thompson. This will be Thompson’s second season as head coach of the Spartans and as a high school coach in general. He is a Murray High School alum and a graduate of Southern Utah University.

Olympus Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Nate Hoggan

2017 offensive production: 8.1 ppg (23rd in 5A)

  • 8 returning starters
  • Spread

Key offensive returning starters

  • Jordan Searle (WR): Searle, the 6’4” senior wide receiver, is on the watch list for the 2018 season. In 2017, he recorded 11 receptions for 163 yards and one touchdown. He also recorded five tackles.
  • Colton Gardner (OL & LB): Gardner recorded huge defensive stats with 26 tackles and one sack during the 2017 season. He will play on both sides of the ball this season as an offensive lineman and linebacker.
  • Jackson Rose (OL & LB): Rose played on the defensive side last year, recording 27 tackles. Rose will now play as an offensive lineman and linebacker heading into his senior season.

Returning offensive starters

Offensive newcomers to watch

Coach Thompson comments on what it will take to make a playoff run:

“We just need to continue to work hard. Kids need to continue to be coachable. Our numbers are up this year our numbers are up this year compared to where they were so just consistency and continuing to work hard in the weight room and on the field."

Coach Hoggan comments on eight starters returning on offense:

“It helps out a lot. Our offense is different this year so it's a whole new offense but just the leadership of being on a varsity level on a Friday night helps."

Coach Hoggan comments on Jordan Searle:

“Jordan Searle is looking great. He’s a leader. He's been in the program for four years. He does everything you ask him. He’s always been more of a blocking receiver but now he's kind of in the role where he is one of the main guys and he's stepped up to it."

Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:

The Spartans must find a way to make big plays to gain significant yardage. The team must also find a way to avoid excess penalties on offense.

Olympus Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Ashley McSwain

2017 defensive production: 38.2 ppg (22nd in 5A)

  • 5 returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Key defensive returning starters

  • Colton Gardner (OL & LB): Gardner is a diverse player who will play both on the offensive and defensive side this upcoming season. His stats for the 2017 season are listed above.
  • Christian Alvarez (DE & TE): Alvarez, the 175 lb senior, recorded 40 tackles last season and 116 tackles overall at defensive end and tight end. He will most likely be moved to offense this season.
  • Jackson Rose (OL & LB): Rose is another diverse player on the Spartans roster and seems poised to make a huge splash defensively during the 2018 season.
  • Jason Horman (DB): Horman recorded 30 tackles and one sack last season. He will be a key defensive player for the Spartans heading into his junior season.

Returning defensive starters

  • Colton Gardner (OL & LB)
  • Christian Alvarez (DE & TE)
  • Jackson Rose (OL & LB)
  • Shayne Zullo (LB)
  • Jason Horman (DB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

  • Jaden Durfee (WR, CB)
  • Jason Horman (RB, SS)
  • Owen Madsen (WR, SS)
  • Autjoe Soe (WR, CB)

Coach McSwain comments on returning defensive leadership:

“Jackson Rose and Colton Gardner are two of our leaders. Our focus this year is just to get players in the right position to maximize their potential so we've changed some things around. We've still got a few two-way players in some areas. But we do have a fair amount of experience back there coming back. We had a lot of juniors who played last year and some seniors coming back..."

Coach McSwain comments on Colton Gardner:

"He was a leader last year as a junior but in a different position so he's acclimated to a new position well and that shows the leadership skills right there. Wanting to make a change and willing to make a change and putting in maximum effort to do it translates to the team."

Coach McSwain comments on the five returning defensive starters:

“I think it helps in the football knowledge sense, definitely. They're physically better, that helps a lot, and mentally better which is a plus. I think it will help quite a bit even with some of the changes we've made."

Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:

The Spartans create a strong defensive line to create more penetration in a game situation. To have success on defense, the team must have depth to shuffle guys around up front.

Coaches preseason Region 6 straw poll: 6

Deseret News Region 6 prediction: 6

Key Region Game: vs. Olympus, (Week 8)

Bottom line: The Spartans have a young head coach and struggled in 5A during the 2017 season due to a young and inexperienced team. The team must capitalize on returning starters and shuffle players around to find a flow.

2018 Schedule

  • Aug. 17 — at Cyprus, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 24 — HILLCREST, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 30 — at Farmington
  • Sept. 7 — JUAN DIEGO, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 — HIGHLAND, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 21 — at West, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 28 — at Skyline, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 5 — OLYMPUS, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 12 — LEHI, 7 p.m.

Felt’s Facts for Murray

All-time record: 350-496-24 (100 years)

Region championships: 9 (1942, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1975, 1977 co, 1988 co, 1993 co, 2004 co)

Playoff appearances: 26

Current playoff appearance streak: 2 (2014-2015)

All-time playoff record: 17-23

State championships: 3 (1954, 1975, 1977)

State championship record: 3-1

Most played rivalry: 76 meetings with Cyprus dating back to 1926. Murray leads 41-31-4.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Murray holds the state record (tied with three others) for the most takeaways — 11 — in a game. The Spartans recovered three fumbles and picked off eight passes against Taylorsville in 1981.

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Last 5

  • 2017 — 2-7 (1-4 in Region 6 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2016 — 3-6 (1-4 in Region 6 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2015 — 7-5 (3-2 in Region 6 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2014 — 6-4 (4-2 in Region 7 – 4A First round)
  • 2013 — 1-8 (0-6 in Region 7 – Missed playoffs)

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Murray coaching history

  • 2017-current — Todd Thompson (2-7)
  • 2016 — Blaine Monkres (3-6)
  • 2012-2015 — Mike Richmond (15-26)
  • 2007-2011 — Dan Aragon (8-39)
  • 2003-2006 — George Georgelas (18-24)
  • 2002 — Wes Meier (2-8)
  • 1988-2001 — Wade Meier (63-80)
  • 1984-1987 — Dale Pehrson (10-28)
  • 1981-1982 — Gene McKeehan (5-11)
  • 1974-1980 — Ron Haun (44-19)
  • 1972-1973 — Dan Slaugh (6-12-1)
  • 1970-1971 — Gene McKeehan (8-10)
  • 1969 — Jerry Saffell (3-6)
  • 1968 — Rex Wright (4-4-1)
  • 1965-1967 — Joe Hansen (8-19-1)
  • 1964 — Wayne Reid (0-7-1)
  • 1963 — Bill Dickey (2-6-1)
  • 1956-1962 — Ray Oliverson (24-34-4)
  • 1949-1955 — Allan Davis (36-27)
  • 1948 — Ken Farrell (5-2)
  • 1945-1947 — unknown (6-13-1)
  • 1942-1944 — Verl Meyrick (7-14-2)
  • 1937-1941 — Paul Rose (18-20)
  • 1933-1936 — Gil Soesinger (16-12-3)
  • 1932 — unknown (3-4)
  • 1931 — Mr. Swenson (3-4-1)
  • 1920-1930 — unknown (23-27-5)
  • 1919 — W.L. Gardner (2-4-1)
  • 1916 — unknown (0-3)

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Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2015 — Maxs Tupai, DL

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.