Murray Spartans Show Spark in the Preseason
By Sarah Almond
You can hear the speakers bumping from the parking lot: the faint, upbeat base of Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick Push.” As you walk around the football bleachers at Murray High School, you notice the lush green AstroTurf, the cheerleading team practicing on the sidelines and nearly 50 Spartan football players running drills down the field. What you notice more than anything, however, is the energy.
The Murray High School football team started fall practice on August 3 and is already getting excited for their upcoming season.
“We’ve got an awesome group of hardworking guys,” Spartans head coach Mike Richmond said. “The energy and work ethic on this team is just great.”
With two-a-day practices beginning on Monday, Aug. 10, the players are just starting to warm up for the long season ahead. The Division 4A team will be playing a 10-game season with hopes of making it to the Utah State Championships.
“If we are able to stay healthy and in good condition, I think we’ve got a great chance at making it,” Richmond said.
Unfortunately, a few of the players are off to a rough start. In the first week of practice, the team has suffered the loss of three talented players due to injury: two athletes have torn their ACL and one player broke his ankle.
“These were two projected starters and a very talented junior,” Richmond said. “We lost some big contributors, but now we’ll play with a little chip on our shoulder. We’ll have to work harder and play smarter.”
Senior and team captain, Moses Taeoalii, can relate to the injured players. He tore his own ACL during the 2014 season, forcing him to the sidelines for most of year. Because he couldn’t play, Taeoalii become more of a verbal leader, which, along with his leadership in the offseason and his hard work ethic, inspired his fellow teammates to vote him in as one of the team captains for the 2015 season.
Taeoalii wasn’t the only captain to be elected by the team. Seniors Taylor Litson, Luke Shipley, McCade Adams, Zach Rose, Tim Nelson and Ephraim Cook will also be leading the Murray Spartans as team captains this season.
“We have a lot of inspiration and encouragement,” Taeoalii said. “Now that we have a steady coaching staff, our leadership is really great and we’re really bonding as a team.”
Team bonding and leadership is something that Richmond encourages and distills in all of his players. Throughout the entire year, the Spartans’ football team gives back to the community through services projects like cleaning the parkway.
“Giving back to the community is such an important thing,” Richmond said. “It teaches these kids that they’ve really got it good. I say, ‘School is first. Football is important, but giving back to the community is necessary.’”
Coach Richmond was recruited out of Fresno, Calif. to play quarterback for The University of Utah Utes from 1988-1991. Though he’s been a Salt Lake City resident for more than 18 years, he was particularly drawn to the Murray community and the love they have for football.
“The support we have from our community is outstanding,” Richmond said. “Our coaching staff and members of the area make so many sacrifices to support us.”
He coached Murray City’s Spartans’ Sport Camp for years before being hired on as the Spartans’ head coach in 2011.
“Most of us have been playing for Mike since little league,” Taeoalii said. “He has great leadership and has been a really good coach.”
The Spartans have about 50 players on both the sophomore and varsity teams, leaving the Spartans with nearly 100 players and nothing to worry about in terms of numbers. What they lack, though, is depth.
“Our numbers are really decent this year, but our biggest challenge is going to be depth. It’s going to be key for us to create some depth this season,” Richmond said.
Team captains agree, but they are prepared to work as hard as they can both on and off the field.
“I think our advantage is that all of our players always give it 100 percent and has really hard work ethic,” Taeoalii said. “Our goal this year is to really grind it out and work hard.”
The Murray Spartans played their first conference game Friday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. The Varsity Team vs. Lehi game was held at Murray High School at 5440 State Street.