Murray football team shatters decades-old records in riding to a 4-1 midseason markSep 23, 2019 12:20PM ● By Carl Fauver
Senior receiver and safety Owen Madsen scored eight touchdowns in Murray’s first five games, including two on defense. (Mike Adams)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
By one measure, this year’s Murray High School football team is better than any Spartan team in 25 years.
By a second measure, coach Todd Thompson’s team is better than any MHS team in 50 years and perhaps more.
But by the measure most Spartan fans care about most, this 2019 team has still not matched what was accomplished just four years ago.
That team—the 2015 Murray football squad—was the last to win a state tournament game. Last year’s Spartans emerged victorious among three teams, from a “play-in” game. But it was not the elusive state tournament win they are after this fall.
As for those other measures, it had been 25 years since a Murray football team started a season with three straight wins, until this year. And the 69 points the Spartans rang up in week five were the most for an MHS football squad since at least 1970. That’s as far back as Thompson’s official records go.
“I have been teaching the boys the famous quote, ‘Victory requires payment in advance,’ and it seems to be working,” Thompson said. “They are practicing hard and paying attention to details. At the midway point of the season, I’m very proud of them.”
Halfway through their 2019 regular season (they have since played two more games, after press deadline), the Spartans were 4-1 overall, 1-1 in Class 5A Region 6. Season opening non-region wins over Cyprus (31-28 OT), Hurricane (35-12) and Eagle Mountain (49-21) were followed by two blowouts to open league play—one good and one bad.
Murray fell at Olympus 42-7, before bouncing back to ring up those record-breaking 69 points in a homecoming shutout win over Cottonwood.
While outscoring their first five opponents 191-103, the Spartans were led by a host of seniors. In fact, this year’s Murray football squad may very well be the most senior-dominated team in Utah. To begin the season, all 11 offensive starters were seniors, as were nine of the 11 on defense.
Some of the returning starters from last season include: quarterback Jarrett Henriksen and wide receivers and defensive backs Owen Madsen and Autjoe Soe.
“We have a lot of great senior leadership on this team,” the 1991 MHS graduate Thompson added. “They are teaching the younger players how to work hard to accomplish our goals.”
Thompson has also ingrained in Soe, Madsen and Henriksen one of the team’s top goals for the year. To a man, they each say an overriding goal is to host a state tournament game—requiring the Spartans to do more than just “get into the playoffs.” In fact, for the first time ever, this season not one single win is required to just get into the “Big Dance.”
A change in the playoff format this fall will have every Class 5A football program advance to state. Playoff pairings are also no longer predetermined by region. Instead, teams will be rated weekly, with playoff pairings announced just a week before the tournament begins, later this month.
At the midway point of the year, Murray was sitting in a strong position to host one of those playoff games.
Through the first five games, quarterback Henriksen had 16 touchdown passes. Madsen had scored 8 touchdowns, including two on defense (an 84-yard fumble recovery and a 35-yard interception return). Soe was the team’s leading receiver in yardage and second only to Madsen in touchdown receptions.
“I have been playing with these guys since we were 8 years old and we’ve gotten off to a pretty good start, which is great,” the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Henriksen said. “I have a great connection with the receivers. We love playing together.”
Henriksen hopes to play college football and “would go anywhere with a college scholarship.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Madsen also hopes to play at the next level and has already been contacted by the University of Montana and Utah State University. In fact, Madsen, Soe and Spartan senior lineman Kasen Nielsen (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) visited the USU campus in Logan for an invited, “unofficial” visit last spring.
“If I am honest with you, I am not surprised we have gotten off to this good start,” Madsen said. “We have so much potential. The coaches say we are just now tapping into it. Honestly, I will be surprised if we lose more than two or three games.”
Although the 6-foot, 155-pound senior Soe enjoyed the USU campus visit, he already has a scholarship offer to play next season at Dixie State University in St. George.
“We put in so much hard work during the off season, conditioning hard and working to improve,” Soe said. “Since our sophomore year we have known we are a good group. It will be some sad goodbyes when the season ends. We have created an unbreakable bond.”
Murray has two Region 6 games remaining (Oct. 4 hosting Brighton and Oct. 10 at Highland), followed by a non-region home game versus Box Elder (Oct. 16).
After that the Spartans plan, hope and expect to host and win a Class 5A state tournament game, in front of a raucous home crowd.