Scroll to bottom of story to see Murray Felt's Facts
Note: Murray finished with an overall 1-9 record and a 0-5 record in Region 7 in 2011. It did not qualify for the 4A postseason.
MURRAY — There was nothing unusual about an obscure summer conditioning workout at Murray High school. It wasn’t a scrimmage or booster-sanctioned event. It was a normal practice as players and coaches went through the basic algorithms of football.
But that didn’t stop an elderly female Murray resident with no affiliation or ties to the current program from approaching first-year coach Mike Richmond at 7 in the morning. She simply wanted to thank him for the preparation he’s put it thus far and to inform the players that “Murray pride” is back.
“I think that Murray has a rich tradition in football and its struggled here for the last decade or so. The excitement stems from the community coming and thanking us for working hard,” Richmond said. “It’s been outstanding. We ended the season last year with maybe 65 players — plus or minus — in the program.
"We’re up to over 100 right now. We don’t have a magic formula. I think it’s just something new and the kids and the community are rallying around. It’s exciting to be a part of it. (Now) we got to go out and win some football games on Friday night.”
Victories have been few and far between at Murray after seven straight losing seasons. Last year, after an opening-week win, Murray dropped nine consecutive outings. Dating back to their last winning season in 2004 (6-4), the Spartans have limped to a 17-52 overall record and a 9-36 tally in region play. During that same time span, Murray has been outscored by 1,108 points.
The program is a work in progress, needing to completely restructure the foundation before actual construction can happen. Rather than trying to fix several things simultaneously, Richmond and his coaching staff are focused on conveying the elementary aspects of the game first.
“I think really it’s just trying to be crisp in what we’re trying to do,” Richmond said. “The challenge for our coaching staff is we have a lot of new coaches and a lot of new schemes. (We're) trying not to put too much on the guys to think about. (We're) trying to keep our packages simple and master the little things and build it from there. From a coach's standpoint it’s trying not to give them too much to digest.”
Murray is swarmed with underclassmen in 2012 with roughly half of the roster residing in the ninth- and 10th-grade classes. That being said, despite the youth and inexperience topped with the pains of the past decade, qualifying for the 4A playoffs is still the ultimate goal.
“Our expectation is to make postseason play,” Richmond explained. “We’ve got to take baby steps and set realistic goals for the team, so our sight is going to be making postseason play. I hate to put a number of wins we’re going to get out of the 10 games, so I think right now what we’re looking for is to play our way into the postseason. I absolutely think it’s accomplishable. We’re in a tough region but we really think that goal is realistic.”
Murray Spartans at a glance
Coach: Mike Richmond brings with him a pedigree of Utah football heading into his first season at Murray. He was a four-year letterman at quarterback for the University of Utah from 1988-91.
Offense (4 returning starters; Multiple-set offense)
Murray will execute out of many different formations, varying typically from 2-back, single-back and empty-sets.
“We’re gonna try to play to our strengths. We’re not a tremendously big football team like you might see at some other schools, so scheme-wise we’ve got to be a little deceptive. We’ve got to move the pocket around,” Richmond said. “We’ve got to try to show the defense a lot of looks; I think you’ll expect to see a lot of different formations from us to keep the defense off balanced.”
Quarterback Justin Adams will once again direct the offense under center. With a year under his belt, making quality reads and decisions at the varsity level should be less difficult. Expect his interception total (10) to drop and his touchdown tosses (2) to increase in 2012.
“He’s a real smart kid (and) we just need him to manage the game,” Richmond said of Adams. “He needs to understand that he doesn’t have to go out and try to win it on his own. He’s got some good weapons around him.”
Spencer Prestwich, whom Richmond labeled as “explosive,” is expected to deliver highlights with breakaway speed. He’s complimented by Courtland Adams, a lanky possession receiver who’ll primarily split to the hashes.
Defense (6 returning starters; 4-3 variations)
Richmond has the vision of a high-flying, ball-hawking defense that churns in variations of an even-front scheme. “We’re going to try to put some creative things in there,” he said.
The Spartans logically should improve from last year on this side of the ball. A season ago, Murray coughed up nearly 33 points per game.
Derick Sanders, also the main ball-handler in the backfield on offense, will arm the defense. A four-year starter at linebacker, Sanders led the Spartans with 125 tackles — 61 more than any of his teammates in 2011.
“He’s a tremendously gifted football player — extremely dedicated in the weight room during the offseason,” Richmond said of Sanders, an honor-roll student with a 3.7 GPA. “You’re going to see good things from him.”
Sanders, however, has been limited at practice. He’s recovering from a procedure for a meniscus tear and is continuing his rehabilitation during the summer months.
“We’re really trying to keep an eye on him and keep him healthy,” Richmond noted.
Coaches preseason Region 7 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: Sixth
Bottom line: Murray is young — like watching "Power Rangers" with a sippy cup young — compared to a lot of varsity squads this season. That could bode well in a few seasons as players start to develop and gain invaluable experience during the often tumultuous, incremental leap from little league to high school varsity play. In the meantime, the Spartans should be more competitive this season after coping with a coaching change mid-season in 2011. However, making the playoffs seems like quite a stretch at this point in time.
Aug. 17 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 — at Granger, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 — at Taylorsville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 — ROY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — at Olympus, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — at Westlake, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — HERRIMAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 — at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 — BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Murray High School
All-time record: 330-457-24 (94 years)
Region championships: 9 (1942, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1975, 1977 co, 1988 co, 1993 co, 2004 co)
Playoff appearances: 24
All-time playoff record: 16-21
State championships: 3 (1954, 1975, 1977)
State championship record: 3-1
Most played rivalry: 73 meetings with Cyprus dating back to 1926. Murray leads 39-30-4. Meet on Aug. 17.
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.
Murray coaching history
2012 — Mike Richmond (0-0)
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
2006 — James Aiono, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.