Murray Spartans: Succeeding Through The Growing Pains Of Change
Senior captain Gage Cuthbertson leads the team in pre-practice stretching exercises. Cuthbertson, Murray’s starting wide receiver, is one of just three returning starters on the team this year. –Sarah Almond
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“We’ve been preparing for this season all summer long,” senior captain Gage Cuthbertson said.
The Spartans launched their preseason in late July with a two-day-long training camp at Weber State University. Here, the team’s 54 varsity players battled through six games and several practice sessions.
“Honestly, I was really impressed by a lot of things that happened while we were at Weber State,” Cuthbertson said. “There wasn’t one game where I felt like we played bad. Our quarterback really stepped up which was a tough spot to fill.”
Cuthbertson was also surprised by how well the team’s defensive group has progressed since the beginning of the preseason and is excited to see what the team’s talented offensive line will do throughout the year.
“More than anything I’m just excited to get to finally start playing,” Cuthbertson said.
For returning players like Cuthbertson and fellow co-captain Hunter Jones, the team’s early showing of success comes as a bit of a welcomed surprise. After graduating several all-star players like Drew Cash, Luke Shipley, and Maxs Tupai, the team also welcomed on a new head coach.
Former Dixie State University head coach Blaine Monkres took over coaching duties for Mike Richmond in late February. With 25 years of coaching experience under his belt, this isn’t Monkres first time working with a new, relatively young program.
“It’s been good being here [Murray],” Monkres said. “I’ve coached high school before so I know what it’s like. I enjoyed coaching at the college level but I’m really enjoying it here, too. You know, it’s always kind of rough in the beginning when kids are trying to learn the new offense, but we got through camp and did a good job with camp and they’ve gotten a lot better since we started back a few weeks ago.”
For senior members of the team who played for three years under the direction of former coach Richmond, the different coaching style of Monkres has taken some getting used to.
“There isn’t as much tradition this year as we used to have. I feel like some things got lost,” Jones said. “Coach [Monkres] is a lot more old-school, like we don’t watch as much film, we practice more, and we practice earlier in the day when it’s hotter.”
Despite these differences, Jones thinks the team is adjusting well and is putting in the work necessary to make this season a successful one. And while acclimating to new coaching standards has presented several members of the team with expected difficulties, Monkres has faces his own challenges in the early part of the season.
“Some of the things they [the players] were used to doing before are not the same,” Monkres said. “So they are having to adjust to a new way of practicing, a new way of what we expect in the locker rooms, a new way of what we expect in the training room and what we expect out of school. It’s just a whole different set of rules that they are having to get used to.”
Along with perfect attendance, no tardies, and completed classwork, Monkres also expects his players to be at all practices.
“There’s really no excuse to miss a practice,” Monkres said. “And that’s been a bit of a struggle but they are coming around. They are learning that it’s important to be here and that their teammates expect them to be here.”
Like many high school football teams, the Spartans’ goal is to claim the region title and go on to find success in the state tournament at the end of October.
“Everyone is starting with an even slate,” Monkres said. “And if they want to work hard enough, I think these goals can be accomplished. If they are willing to put in the time and work, and hold themselves accountable, then it will be possible for them to get that done.”
With nine challenging teams on their schedule, a roster that’s loaded with new players, and the anticipation of playing under a new coaching staff, the Spartans are grateful to have six home games this season and excited to defy adversity and reach their goals with the support of the Murray community.