Prep football preview: Murray Spartans
EDITOR'S NOTE • This is one in a series of previews of Utah's high school football programs. They will run throughout the summer leading up to the 2014 regular season, which begins Aug. 21.
The first game of the Spartans' 2013 season had a bigger-than-expected impact on the rest, when starting quarterback Riley Richmond broke his shoulder.
Richmond was one of many Murray players affected by injuries last season. Add the lack of health to a lack of experience and lack of depth, and the program struggled seven of the Spartan's eight losses were by more than 33 points.
"Some of those games were close in the first half, but the score escalated in the second half," said coach Mike Richmond.
This season, there will be strong emphasis on "finishing everything."
"That's that motivation and the drive that [the players] have used during the offseason," Richmond said.
The coach added that summer workout attendance has been good, and the players are active and committed.
While Richmond is realistic about his team, the third-year coach also sees some reasons for optimism.
The Spartans will return eight starting players each on offense and defense, and have about 30 seniors compared to seven last year.
"We embrace that underdog role," he said. "People don't expect a lot from us.
"[These players] will be used to playing on Friday nights," he added. "We know what we are doing on offensive and defense, and we are bigger, stronger and faster."
Last year • 1-8 overall (0-6 in Region 7)
Key returner • Treven Aloi, a senior offensive and defensive lineman, "is probably one of the strongest players in Utah," according to Richmond, and will draw "double- and triple-teams that free up other players."
Player to watch • Maxs Tupai, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior runs a 4.6-second 40, and was All-Region as a sophomore and is drawing several Division I college offers. "His size, strength and speed are phenomenal. His athleticism is off the chart for a kid his age. He is poised to have a breakout season," Richmond said.
Biggest hole • The Spartans' biggest problem was their lack of depth. "That will be the toughest thing for us to overcome," said Richmond. "We have about 75 players in our entire program, and that is pretty light for a football team."
Need to know • The Spartans will play seven home games this season. Due to the construction of the new turf field at Spartan Stadium, they played more road games last year. This will make up for the lopsided scheduling.