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High school football: Murray Spartans 2020 preview

Here’s an in-depth look at the Murray Spartans football team heading into the 2020 season.

Note: Murray finished with an 8-4 overall record in 2019 and was fourth in Region 6 with a 3-3 record. It was RPI seed No. 13 in the 5A playoffs, and was eliminated by Olympus 49-7 in second round.


MURRAY — After years of struggling with poor results, the Murray football program strung together a very successful eight-win season in 2019. The hope is that last season was a sign of what’s to come. However, replicating or improving upon last season’s success won’t be a walk in the park for the Spartans as they have no starters returning from last season.

In order to maintain the pace set last season, Murray is installing a new offensive system. This new offense will focus on using RPOs and spread formations to exploit and attack opposing defenses. Head coach Todd Thompson thinks that the players seem to be adapting to the new system well.

“Our offensive coordinator has worked with them consistently. We were able to get a camp in and do some 7-on-7. It’s been pretty good for them to work and rep it and it’s come along pretty well,” said Thompson.

The new offense better click because Murray will require a lot offensively if it hopes to compete with region foes like Olympus and Brighton.

Unlike the offense, no changes will be made to the defensive schemes. This will likely serve as a benefit to the defensive starters as they look to replace a defense that had two all-state players in Autjoe Soe and Owen Madsen. Coach Thompson feels confident in his players and their ability to fill the empty shoes.

“We do have guys who are capable. They didn’t start, but they got significant reps last year. It’s not like they’ll be walking out there on Fridays with big eyes. They’ve been there, just now they’re starting,” said Thompson.

Altogether, the path forward for the Spartans doesn’t look too smooth, but rough terrain isn’t something that this program is unfamiliar with. Despite all the uncertainty surrounding this season for Murray, it can be certain that many will be rooting for it to maintain the success that it obtained last year.


Murray Spartans at a glance

Coach Thompson’s thoughts on how his players dealt with the COVID-19 adversity in the spring and summer:

“I think it’s been a little bit harder on us because we were one of the last school districts to be allowed to do anything. We had quite a few kids that were meeting on their own, doing footwork and other things in order to get ready to get after it. We did the best we could (to keep the team together). Our kids have bounced back. We have more numbers this year, but the late start has been kind of burdensome.”

Murray Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: D.J. Pirkle

2019 offense: 29.3 ppg (9th in 5A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • 0 returning starters
  • Spread pro offense
Returning offensive starters
  • None
Offensive newcomers to watch
  • Lance Wightman (RB)
  • Connor Harris (WR)
  • Gavin Maycock (WR)
  • Chandler Thompson (WR)
  • Barrett Francom (OL)
  • Kooper Talbot (C )
  • Kyler Nielsen (QB)
  • Brennan Kupfer (QB)
Coach Thompson’s keys for offensive success in 2020:

“Just like anything else, it all starts up front. Football is pretty simple; it’s about blocking and tackling. You have to block to create holes for the running back and you’ve got to block so the quarterback can have time to throw the ball. So being able to stay on blocks and give our running back and our quarterback time to make plays.”


Murray Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Ashley McSwain

2019 defense: 23.3 ppg (13th in 5A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • 0 returning starters
  • 4-3 defense
Returning defensive starters
  • None
Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Mark Jessop (DL)
  • Barrett Schafer (DE)
  • Aiden Wahlbridge (SS)
  • Kaden Anderson (LB)
  • Hunter De La Cruz (CB)
Coach Thompson’s keys for defensive success in 2020:

“The biggest thing is going to be our ability to tackle. Also being able to play the pass will be pretty significant. Just being ready to go and tackle, make big plays, and get off the field to let our offense go to work.”

Deseret News outlook for 2020

It’s really unfair to place high expectations on a team that has none of its starters returning. However, Thompson has shown an ability to rally and put together strong seasons when many have had low expectations. It’s highly unlikely that Murray finishes at the top of its region, but it seems equally unlikely that it finishes at the bottom.


Felt’s Facts for Murray

  • All-time record: 364-507-24 (102 years)

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

  • Playoff appearances: 28
  • All-time playoff record: 18-25

  • State championships: 3 (1954, 1975, 1977)

  • State championship record: 3-1

  • Most played rivalry: 78 meetings with Cyprus dating back to 1926. Murray leads 42-32-4.

Last 5 Seasons

  • 2019 — 8-4 (3-3 in Region 6 – 5A Second round)
  • 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)

Murray coaching history

  • 2017-current — Todd Thompson (16-18)
  • 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) *2 State Titles
  • 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) *1 State Title
  • 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)


Murray All-State at-a-glance

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
  • 2019 —Autjoe Soe, CB
  • 2015 — Maxs Tupai, DL