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High school football: Murray Spartans 2019 preview

Note: Murray finished with a 6-7 overall record in 2018 and was tied for fourth in Region 6 with a 1-4 record. It lost to Corner Canyon 70-3 in the 5A first round.

Murray 2018 offensive and defensive stats

MURRAY — Heading into the Murray Spartans’ third year under head coach Todd Thompson, it appears the team is on the upswing.

In 2017, the Spartans won just two games, and then they won four in the regular season last year, which qualified them for a play-in game against the West Panthers. They won it on a field goal from, perhaps appropriately, Riley Murray, and then beat the Skyline Eagles in the next play-in round, thanks again to a field goal from Murray.

“We’ve just been preaching that the name on the front is more important than the name on the back, and the kids’ attitudes have changed a little bit,” Thompson said. “We see problems and we try to fix it. The kids know that it’s not about you. It’s about the team.”

As the 2019 season gets set to start, the Spartans have the goal of accomplishing something the program hasn’t done in 15 years, back when Thompson, a Murray graduate, was an assistant coach in the program.

“I think that would be beneficial to our program to see that and have it happen here,” Thompson said, “get the kids to be really excited for that.”

Thompson is confident that an experienced group can make that happen.

“We’re going to be pretty senior-heavy, and almost every one of them can contribute in some way. This group that is now seniors, they’ve been pretty successful as a sophomore team and then last year a handful of them got to start varsity, and now the other guys are going to be able to start with them.”

He feels a schedule that includes seven home games will only help his team reach that goal. The Spartans had five home games last year and just four in 2017.

“It’d be nice to be able to compete and win in front of our home crowd,” Thompson said. “We have good crowds.”

Murray Spartans at a glance

Coach: Todd Thompson will be entering his third season as head coach of the Spartans. He compiled an 8-14 overall record in his first two seasons at the helm.

Thompson’s comments on new UHSAA RPI:

“It’s mixed feelings ... I just hope that they keep with it for a couple years and not just scrap it after one year and see where we fall.”

Murray offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Nate Hoggan

2018 offensive production: 19.7 ppg (17th in 5A)

— 6 returning starters

— Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

Jarrett Henriksen (QB)

Autjoe Soe (WR)

Owen Madsen (WR)

Jaden Durfee (WR)

Ryan King (OL)

Kasen Nielsen (OL)

Seth West (OL)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Maliki Garcia (OL)

Vince Zissi (OL)

Durrant Sinju (RB)

Nick Cooper (RB)

Adonis Johnson (WR)

Landon Hoggan (WR)

Thompson’s comments on new starting running backs Durrant Sinju and Nick Cooper:

“Those two right there will be able to tango it off pretty well. I think we’ll be able to run the football quite well, and if we can do that, then obviously that will set up our pass. Our goal is to be run first and pass second.”

Thompson’s comments on the offensive line:

“That’s been our biggest thing, is making sure we understand our pass protection. That’s what hurt us a little bit last year ... with three guys coming back, it’ll be good. It’s just breaking in two other guys into that offensive system.”

Keys for offensive success in 2019:

In addition to making sure snaps are clean, Thompson hopes his team can be successful on third down, an area it struggled in last season. Additionally, he feels keeping the offensive line healthy is crucial, as there’s not much depth there behind the starters.

Murray defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Ashley McSwain

2018 defensive production:

— 7 returning starters

— 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

Vince Zissi (DL)

Maliki Garcia (DL)

Kasen Nielsen (DL)

Durrant Sinju (was DL, moving to LB)

Owen Madsen (DB)

Autjoe Soe (DB)

Xander Christman (DB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Ray Okialda (LB)

Nick Cooper (DB)

Thompson’s comments on replacing linebacker unit:

“We were pretty senior-driven right there. That group of kids was really good. Those kids are going to be hard to replace.”

Keys for defensive success in 2019:

Thompson is very confident in his experienced secondary, but with a completely new group of linebackers, he feels much of the defense’s success will depend on how well his team can stop the run.

Bottom line

The Spartans have been moving in the right direction the last two seasons, and their overall experience supports the idea they’ll be able to continue the upward trajectory in 2019 with the good amount of experience they have coming back. That said, there are enough holes that need to be filled that could limit whether or not Murray can break through and become one of the top teams in Region 6.

Coaches preseason Region 6 straw poll: Third

Deseret News Region 6 prediction: Fourth

Key region game: Friday, Oct. 4 vs. Brighton

2019 schedule

Aug. 16 — CYRPUS, 7 p.m.

Aug. 23 — HURRICANE, 7 p.m.

Aug. 30 — CEDAR VALLEY, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 — at Olympus, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 — COTTONWOOD, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 — at Skyline, 7 p.m.

Sept. 26 — HILLCREST, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 — BRIGHTON, 7 p.m.

Oct. 10 — at Highland, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 — BOX ELDER, 7 p.m.

….

Felt’s Facts for Murray High School

All-time record: 356-503-24 (101 years)

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

Playoff appearances: 27

Current playoff appearance streak: 1

All-time playoff record: 17-24

State championships: 3 (1954, 1975, 1977)

State championship record: 3-1

Most played rivalry: 77 meetings with Cyprus dating back to 1926. Murray leads 41-32-4.

Felt’s Factoid: 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.

...

Last 5

  • 2018 — 6-7 (1-4 in Region 6 – 5A First round)
  • 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)

….

Murray coaching history

  • 2017-current — Todd Thompson (8-14)
  • 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)

...

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.