Note: Murray finished with a 3-6 overall record in 2016 and fifth in Region 6 with a 1-4 record. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
MURRAY — There’s a new head football coach in town at Murray High School.
Well, sort of new.
Todd Thompson takes over the reins at Murray in 2017, in his first year as a high school football head coach. Before that, he was an assistant for the program and used to coach the Spartans' wrestling team.
“It’s been pretty good because I’ve been in the school and some of these kids have wrestled for me when I was the wrestling coach, so I think it’s good, the attitude is good,” Thompson said
So far, the reaction to Thompson from his players has been positive.
“I think it’s been pretty positive, I used to help out, and then I got out, so now that I’m the head coach there are no kids that are left that I coached with before, so it’s coming in just starting brand-spanking new,” Thompson said. “I think it’s been pretty good, again, we’re changing the offense and the defense so some of these kids are getting three offenses in three years and three new head coaches in that time frame.”
Thompson is moving to a more traditional Veer offense, which means a new offensive scheme for the Spartans to learn. So far, Thompson says the team is getting it.
“Offensive-wise, we’ve gone away from the spread and have gone more old school, traditional veer offense. It’s been pretty good, right from the get-go, the kids kind of struggle a little bit, just because they’ve been used to running spread for the last five years, and now we’re going back under center and using more traditional,” Thompson said. “At the beginning, it was kind of a struggle, but towards the end of camp, when we were doing team camp, it got better.”
Murray Spartans at a glance
Coach: Todd Thompson enters his first year as head coach of the Murray Spartans. It is also his first year as a high school head coach. Thompson is a graduate of Murray High School and Southern Utah University.
Murray Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Todd Thompson
2016 offensive production: 30 ppg (9th in 4A)
-- 1 returning starter
-- Veer offense
Key returning starter
Victor Leal (C)
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior is the only returning starter for Murray's offense.
Returning offensive starters
Victor Leal (C)
Offensive newcomers to watch
Eli Taeoalii (WR, K, P)
Jackson Rose (OL)
Christian Alvarez (TE)
Thompson’s comments on quarterbacks:
“We have a senior, Kobe Graham, that will most likely be the starting quarterback, but we have a 10th-grader, Jarett Henriksen, that can obviously push him. We used him the last day in camp because we didn’t have a quarterback, because our senior guy was gone, and he did a fantastic job. I envision him pushing him (Graham) for the starting job and being possibly a three-year starter, or he’ll push Kobe to do well and then he’ll be a two-year starter for us next year.”
Thompson’s comments on running backs:
“It’s the fullback and the tailback, so the way that the scheme is, it’s not a true triple option, it’s more veer, so we can run option out of it, but a lot of plays are designed for the fullback and a lot of plays are designed for the tailback. We have a pretty strong fullback, so depending on situations, they’ll both carry the bulk of the load. Damien Symes and we don’t know yet at tailback.”
Thompson’s Keys to Offensive Success:
“Just because we’re undersized, the goal of our offense is to shorten the game. The biggest thing is, keep the clock moving, keep the ball moving, first downs. We’re not trying to score every play, three yards, four yards, and if we get more than that, that’s good. Just ball control, limited turnovers, and playing field position, shortening the game, which will benefit us immensely.”
Murray Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinators: Jeremy Taeoali and Chuck Miller
2016 defensive production: 37.1 ppg (25th in 4A)
-- 3 returning starters
-- 4-2-5 defense
Key defensive returning starters
Brandon Alvarez (LB)
Alvarez was Murray’s leading tackler last season, racking up 76 tackles and three sacks.
Merrick Klingler (LB)
Klingler had 44 tackles a season ago.
Defensive returning starters
Brandon Alvarez (LB)
Merrick Klingler (LB)
Jackson Rose (DE)
Defensive newcomers to watch
Eli Taeoalii (S)
Todd Golder (CB)
Thompson’s comments on Brandon Alvarez:
“He’s the leader, mentality-wise, he’s dialed in, he’s wrestled for me and he’s stepped up and has been a great leader and works hard in the weight room, pushes kids around him to do better. He started last year and he’ll be a two-way starter for us because mentality-wise and physical-wise, he’s aggressive and he gets after it. He’ll be our Starting Spartan in our defense and he’ll be our starting tight end.”
Thompson’s comments on Jackson Rose:
“He’s looking good. He’s got a good frame, he works hard in the weight room, pushes himself pretty good. He’s getting bigger, he’ll definitely be a two-way starter for us.”
Thompson’s Keys to Defensive Success:
“We’ve got to get off the field. I think our offense will be our best defense if our offense can control the football and keep our defense off the field, then I think we’ll be successful. Again, a couple of those guys on offense will start on defense, so we’ll have a few two-way players but most of them will platoon. So we won’t have a bunch of guys that are consistently on the field. And then, playing assignment football, just reading our keys and dropping back and keeping things in front of us, causing turnovers, not giving up the big plays.”
Coaches preseason Region 6 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 6 prediction: Sixth
Key region game: at Highland, Sep. 15
Bottom line: With only one offensive returning starter and three defensive returning starters, it will be hard for Murray to compete in a strong Region 6, but Thompson is determined to prove that the Spartans are on the right track under his leadership.
Aug. 18 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — SKYRIDGE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — BYE
Sept. 8 — at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — at Highland, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — WEST, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — at Olympus, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — at Lehi, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 — at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Murray High School
All-time record: 348-489-24 (99 years)
Region championships: 9 (1942, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1975, 1977 co, 1988 co, 1993 co, 2004 co)
Playoff appearances: 26
Current playoff appearance streak: 2 (2014-2015)
All-time playoff record: 17-23
State championships: 3 (1954, 1975, 1977)
State championship record: 3-1
Most played rivalry: 76 meetings with Cyprus dating back to 1926. Murray leads 41-31-4.
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.
2016 — 3-6 (1-4 in Region 6 -- Missed playoffs)
2015 — 7-5 (3-2 in Region 6 – Missed playoffs)
2014 — 6-4 (4-2 in Region 7 – 4A First round)
2013 — 1-8 (0-6 in Region 7 -- Missed playoffs)
2012 — 1-9 (0-5 in Region 7 -- Missed playoffs)
Murray coaching history
2017 — Todd Thompson (0-0)
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)
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
2015 — Maxs Tupai, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.