MURRAY — Don’t look now, but the Taylorsville Warriors are 2-0 for the second straight year.
Coach Rod Wells, however, isn’t ready to say his team can challenge for the 5A state title. But for now, the Warriors are the best team on the block.
Toa Maumau threw a pair of long touchdown passes and Lyric Bartley intercepted a pass in the final minute as Taylorsville hung on to beat neighborhood rival Murray 17-13 Friday night in a non-region game.
“We practiced like crap all week,” Wells said. “They rose to the occasion. They stepped up and made the plays.”
Murray’s speed created problems for the Warriors all night, and Wells admitted his team felt backed into a corner the entire night. Taylorsville’s offense was inconsistent, but a pair of key catches made the difference.
Trailing 3-0, Josh Cox made the first big one. He snagged a mid-range pass over the middle from Maumau, broke a tackle and then dodged several Murray defenders on his way to a 68-yard score.
After Murray regained the lead in the third quarter, Maumau lofted a pass near the sidelines for Jace Simons, who leaped over a Spartan defender, grabbed the ball and high-stepped into the end zone on a 40-yard play.
“We needed those big plays because Murray really outplayed us,” Wells said.
The Spartans, who have had a history of disappointing seasons in football, also had high hopes here. Murray whipped Lehi in its opener last week, and the two teams’ undefeated records resulted in a big crowd and a lot of electricity.
The outcome wasn’t decided until about a minute remained when Riley Richmond’s fourth-down pass over the middle was grabbed by the 6-foot-3 Bartley. Richmond came into the game to replace Drew Cash, who was injured on the previous play.
Cash led Murray downfield on its first drive, which resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Gage Cuthbertson. He thew for only 102 yards — despite 14 completions. The Spartans tried to get the ball to speedy, 145-pound running back Mitch Rasmussen, but he was only able to break through for a few big plays.
Murray had only a handful of plays over 20 yards, but helped itself with several good returns on special teams.
Maumau showed off his strong arm several times. He completed 14 of 28 passes for 274 yards — with no interceptions. Jake Hillman was his favorite receiver.
The Warriors, who beat Kearns last week, expect to find out exactly where they stand in the 5A ranks next week when they take on perennial power Davis.
“It’s a great win and, when the football team wins, it makes for a fun week in school,” said Wells. “But next week is where we find out where we’re at. We’ll have to practice — and play — a lot better than we did this week.”
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.