Harry Welch has been the architect of some of the best football teams in state history.
He’s crafted and molded squads the way he’s wanted to — he’s done it his way.
Welch serves as his own defensive coordinator and his own offensive coordinator — something almost completely unheard of in this day and age. Yet, that’s Welch, operating on his terms.
And on his terms is how he plans to step away from the game he’s given so much to over the past 40-plus years as a coach, including 24 years as a head coach. Earlier this week, Welch announced he will be retiring at the end of the 2013 season.
Currently preparing for his fourth and final season at Santa Margarita, he’s lifted the Eagles program to sights unseen. He guided Santa Margarita to a PAC-5 title and a state bowl championship in 2011.
He is the only coach in state history to win a state bowl championship at three different schools (two stints Canyon, St. Margaret’s, Santa Margarita).
In his illustrious career, he owns an 82.6 percent winning percentage (252-55-2), a 46-game win streak, a 43-game win streak, nine CIF Southern Section titles in 10 appearances and three state bowl championships.
His first state bowl win came in surprising fashion. At the time, as the head coach of Canyon, his two-loss team earned a state bowl berth, after much debate, and were granted a date with mighty De La Salle.
The Cowboys shocked the state and the Spartans with a 27-13 win, while spoiling De La Salle’s bid at an undefeated season and a national championship.
Just last season, his team entered the year as No. 1 in the nation, according to many publications, and were favored to win back-to-back PAC-5 and state titles before a key injury derailed those plans.
This season, the Eagles are expected to be in the discussion again for a PAC-5 title. So what’s the reason for deciding to retire now?
“Being 68-years-old,” Welch joked.
All kidding aside, he’d like to rid himself of the rigors of the coaching world, which in recent years he’s devoted a full seven days a week, 52 weeks a year to. Welch now looks to contribute that time to being a husband, a father to his two adult daughters and a grandfather to his five grandchildren.
That’s something he’s looking forward to.
“I’ve had a great run,” Welch said. “I’ve had an absolute wonderful, wonderful run. I’m real pleased, real honored.
“It’s time for me to take a deep breath (and) smell the roses.”
Those roses, no doubt, smell a lot sweeter following some of the health scares he’s endured in his career, but even those have not factored into his decision to step away from the game. Some of the health scares affecting Welch include four major vocal cord surgeries, heart surgery and a battle with cancer.
Today he says he’s in good health.
However, the topic of his retirement becomes emotional when he thinks of all the players he’s come across throughout his career.
Since he announced his retirement, he’s been flooded with emails from those he’s had an impact on throughout his coaching career, directly or indirectly.
“I had a widow (of a) former player write me a note saying ‘Thank you, and I’m raising my children the way that you coached their father,'” Welch said. “I think what I’m most proud of and most pleased with and most satisfied with is that eventually the men and their families realize that I was using football to teach them about life, and apparently that message has gotten across.”
Going out on top is important for Welch. But that may not be defined by the 2013 season ending with a win at Angel Stadium or at the StubHub Center in Carson.
“Going out on top would be if this team learns the life lessons that my other teams have learned and they play with great intensity and enthusiasm and spirit and then they apply those lessons to their lives in their future,” Welch said.