1 of 2
Jake Doughty, Juan Diego

DELTA — At a recent team meeting, Delta football coach Russ Henrie asked Wes Murdock, his leading tackler from a year ago, to stand up in front of the entire team.

With Murdock admittedly feeling a bit uncomfortable about being the center of attention, Henrie said, "you can't draw a better picture of my idea of a Delta football player. The kid is courteous, he's respectful, he gets great grades."

Henrie said he'd love to have 10 more players just like his starting middle linebacker.

"He's the type of kid that will open the door for you, and then he puts a helmet on he'll take your head off," said Henrie. "He's not a trash talker. He just loves the game and plays it with all of his heart."

Murdock's one of the main reasons big things are expected out of Delta this year. He was a starting sophomore two years ago when Delta advanced to the 3A semifinals before losing to Snow Canyon. A year ago he was on the field during the Rabbits' late-game collapse against eventual state champion Logan.

Those experiences, along with some unique life experiences off the field, have groomed Murdock into what Delta's coach says everyone should aspire to be like.

Last summer, he and members of his Grace Baptist Church did humanitarian work in Mexico constructing buildings out of clay for several poverty-stricken villages in the mountains. Murdock said it was very much an eye-opening experience.

A completely different experience, an obvious error in judgement, opened Murdock's eyes to another part of life.

Last year a cop came out to practice and informed coach Henrie that he needed to speak to Murdock. Henrie said he must be mistaken, what kind of trouble could Murdock possibly have gotten into?

It turns out that Murdock backed his car into a parked car at a local store, but fled the scene without providing his insurance info. Murdock admits that he panicked and drove off after getting out and inspecting the damage.

Someone obviously saw the incident and informed the cops, who quickly tracked down Murdock at practice.

"I messed up, and ended up doing some community service," said Murdock. "I learned my lesson. If you back into a car you put your name and insurance on the windshield and get that taken care of."

Murdock has clearly been through a lot on and off the field the past two years. If that's led his coach to use him as an example, so be it. The senior linebacker and fullback just wants to try and help Delta claim its first state title since 2001.

"He plays it up, but I don't think I'm anything real special, I'm just trying to do my part for the team so we can win," said Murdock.

Region 8 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)

1. JUAN DIEGO: With the number of quality starters returning this year, it's easy to see why the Soaring Eagle were pegged by the coaches as the Region 8 team to beat. James Markosian is a highly-recruited lineman who starts at nose guard and center. Defensively, coach John Colosimo believes his team should be pretty good. Jake Doughty and Tyler Bauman are solid linebackers, and Taylor Berg is a quality defensive end. Offensively, Brian May gets the starting nod at quarterback and has a target in Keegan Anderson, a big-time playmaker according to his coach despite being just a junior. 2007 RECORD: 8-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.

2. DELTA: With a bunch of returning starters, including eight defensively, the Rabbits figure to make some noise not only in Region 8 but in 3A as well. Defensively, Delta is led by returning leading tackler Wes Murdock and hard-hitting safety Dayton DeLoach. In the trenches, Garret Spence will anchor the offensive and defensive line. Nick Nissen, who's been starting since his sophomore year, is another promising talent on the line. In the inverted wishbone, coach Russ Henrie says the deep back carries the ball 80 percent of the time, and senior Micah Roper and junior Derek Peterson figure to share the carries until someone emerges as the front runner. . 2007 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.

3. EMERY: Gatlan Huntington will be running the offensive show this year for Emery at quarterback, a year after playing safety. His coach says he's perfect for the Wing-T offense, and if he has a good year Emery could be headed to the quarterfinals again. Cameron Hansen, Chance Ariotti and Colby Snow will all start at linebacker, as well as being key cogs on offense. Depth on the offensive and defensive line is a concern. After a solid senior core of lineman with decent size, led by Sheridan Oviatt, the junior class only has three lineman. Injuries could be very detrimental.. 2007 RECORD: 7-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the quarterfinals.

4. NORTH SANPETE: With the graduation of 11 seniors, which includes two 1,000 rushers a year ago, 2008 is a bit of a rebuilding year for the North Sanpete program. It doesn't really help that there are only seven seniors on this year's team. The best athlete on the team is Reggie Clawson, a player coach Casey Jenson says will likely move from receiver to running back this year. Steve Poulsen, just a junior, is the fastest and strongest kid on the team and someone to watch out for. Taylor Hicks will start at quarterback, a year after starting at defensive back. The team was dealt a blow this summer when starting lineman Jordan Lee moved to Cedar City. 2007 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the first round.

5. SALEM HILLS: The SkyHawks program is in good hands with Monte Morgan at the helm, someone who knows how to get a first-year school headed in the right direction. Morgan was Lone Peak's first and only coach before stepping down after 11 seasons. He won six region titles during those 11 years, qualifying for the playoffs nine times. Overall, Morgan's been coaching for 16 years with a 111-67 career record, but now he'll be doing his work from the southern part of Utah County. 2007 RECORD: N/A. PLAYOFFS: N/A.

6. CARBON: Less than a month before the start of the season, the program was thrown a major wrinkle with the firing of head coach Tim Tiller and the hiring of Leo Paur. The Dinos knew coach doesn't have any head coaching experience, but he's been an assistant for 13 years. Even though the numbers are low, only about 36 players, Paur has plenty of returning varsity experience to work with. Tysen Stevens (WR/DE) was a first-team all-region selection a year ago, while four other players, Joey Keller (QB/DB), Jake Knighton (WR/DB), Jordan Tatton (WR/DB) and Lance Deeter (OL/LB) were second teamers. Overall, there are nine returning offensive starters and nine returning defensive starters. Unfortunately for the Dinos, with limited depth in can not afford injuries. 2007 RECORD: 2-7. PLAYOFFS: Missed the playoffs.

E-mail: [email protected]