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Murray Journal

First look at next year's Murray football team

May 14, 2018 04:56PM ● By Carl Fauver

Some 50 to 75 Murray football prospects attended workouts before school let out for the summer. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

As the end of the school year was arriving at Murray High, dozens of football players were hard at work each evening, determined to get next fall’s Spartan team to a place it didn’t quite reach a year ago — the Class 5A state tournament. 

“I’m confident we can get there this season,” said second-year head coach Todd Thompson. “We have a lot of good kids coming back — including our entire starting offensive line — and they have been working hard. We have much better numbers out for the team this year, 50 to 75 guys at each practice. I feel good about it.”

Among those returning linemen are a pair of seniors-to-be — Jackson Rose and Colton Gardner — who are each about 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. This will also be their fourth year in the Spartan football program, after starting while still in ninth grade.

“I started at right guard on offense and tackle on defense last season,” Rose said. He expects to remain in his same offensive line spot this fall, but could switch to middle linebacker on defense. 

“We have been lifting weights and putting in a lot of field work,” Rose added. “I love our coaches, especially Thompson. He’s a great coach and very committed to our Murray community. He’s always looking for ways to improve our program.”

Like Rose, Gardner is also expected to keep his same offensive position from last season (right tackle), but may shift from defensive line to linebacker.

“I think we can be really good this year,” Gardner said. “This is my first year to have the same head coach coming back, so that puts us ahead. We also lose only a few seniors to graduation. Coach Thompson has a lot of knowledge and is someone you can bond with off the field. I think we’ll be OK.”

Last season the Class 5A state champion came out of Murray’s Region 6, when Lehi destroyed Skyridge in the title game, 55-17.  Highland, Skyline and Olympus also got to the tournament, while West and Murray missed out.

“It will be a tight race to get in again,” Thompson added. “Lehi lost some people, but will still be strong. Olympus and Highland should be good again. It may come down to Skyline, West and us battling for the final slot. But we plan to surprise some people.” 

One big change Thompson is making this season is turning the offensive coordinator duties over to Nate Hoggan, who was head coach of the Murray sophomore football team last season, a group that lost only one game. 

“This will be my fourth year working in the Murray program; but the first three were mostly with the sophomores,” Hoggan said. “I feel my (offensive) scheme fits the personnel we have. I like to spread the offense out a bit. I think we can get to the playoffs and win a game there.”

Last year’s Murray sophomore team averaged about 30 points per game and Hoggan believes the varsity can push toward that number this fall.

One of the biggest questions going into the upcoming season is who will be the starting Spartan quarterback. With last year’s starter graduating, Jarrett Henriksen (the No. 1 backup last year) is expected to get the nod, as a junior.

“I’m ready for the opportunity and the challenge,” he said. “I also like the move of making Coach Hoggan the offensive coordinator.  He’s been my coach since I was 8 years old.”

However, pushing Henriksen for the starting QB job is Tyelor Saxton, a transfer student who was with the Murray program last year, but ineligible to play varsity football. 

“I haven’t played quarterback much before, but have been a baseball pitcher my whole life,” Saxton said. “I like that our coaches give everyone a fair chance to compete for positions.”

In these first few weeks of June, Murray players will participate in 7-on-7 football camps at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Wasatch High School in Heber City. Official fall tryouts for the team — the first time the athletes can wear pads — will be held in late July.

“Our expectations for the football program are way up this year,” Spartans Co-athletic Director Keeko Georgelas said. “(Head Coach Todd Thompson) has the staff around him that he wants and the kids all know him and his system much better. We all think the team will be much improved over last year.”