High school football: Murray Spartans 2014 preview

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 1:25 p.m. MDT

Note: Murray finished with a 1-8 overall record in 2013 and was seventh in Region 7 with an 0-6 record. It failed to qualify for the 4A playoffs.

MURRAY — For the first time in three seasons as head coach of Murray High, Mike Richmond feels his squad is finally ready to start making some noise.

“We’ve got high expectations this year,” Richmond said. “No longer is the goal to be competitive and to try to stay in games; we are looking to win our games this year.”

Plagued by injuries and a lack of experience and leadership, Murray has won just one game in each of its last two seasons.

Starting quarterback Riley Richmond’s shoulder injury from last year’s season opener that caused him to miss the majority of the 2013 campaign seems to have fully healed, and Coach Richmond is really pleased with his progress thus far.

“He’s looking really good,” Richmond said of his starting QB. “He’s fully recovered from his shoulder injury; he’s healthy; and we are looking at moving him around to a lot of different positions this year.”

With a fully healthy and experienced team that has a total of 14 starters returning (seven on offense, seven of defense), the Spartans may have finally found the right pieces to put together a successful and winning season.

“Last year, we only had six seniors on our football team and 20-25 sophomores. Flash-forward to this year, I’ve got two sophomores on our varsity roster and the rest are all juniors and seniors,” said Richmond. “So the experience level with guys coming back is going to be one of our strengths as a football team.”

With the hiring of a new offensive coordinator and the experience of their impressive offensive line, the Spartans are hoping to make more of an impact on the offensive side of the ball, especially in the run game.

“We’re going to be better in our run game than we were last year. Concept-wise, we are doing some good stuff with our schemes,” Richmond said of his team’s run game.

Murray will continue to run its spread offense and a lot of its schemes will be the same despite the change in offensive coordinators. However, Richmond is confident his team will drastically improve its execution on offense this year.

“We’re optimistic; we have a new offensive and defensive coordinator with us this year, and our kids are really grasping the new concepts,” said Richmond. “We’re really excited about what we’ve got going on.”

Murray will heavily rely on the play of star defenders Treven Aloi, Maxs Tupai and Brock Acord to anchor its defense.

Acord led the Spartans with 60 tackles and two sacks last year, while Aloi recorded a team-high six sacks and added 33 tackles, and Tupai contributed 38 tackles, four sacks and one interception to lead Murray’s solid defense.

On the offensive side, Mitch Rasmussen, 2013’s Region 7 Special Teams MVP, is set to return and should provide some exciting returns in special teams, along with some explosive speed and athleticism as a wide receiver.

“He’s fantastic. He’s done a great job. He’ll probably be the smallest guy on the field every night, but I’ll tell you what, he’s as tough as they come. He’s quick, and his ability to cut and change directions makes him extremely slippery,” Richmond said of his breakout special teams star.

Overall, the Spartans' experience on the field and overall good health should provide them with enough weapons to improve significantly and compete in a very competitive Region 7.