Los Angeles Preps: Harry Welch

Stanton starting to carve out niche

March, 6, 2012
LOS ANGELES – In recruiting circles, Johnny Stanton from Rancho Santa Margarita Santa Margarita is well-known on the West Coast. As far as reputations go on the national level, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback from the 2013 class has some work to do.

Nevertheless, Stanton is one of the Southland's most promising prospects around. One need not look any further than his offers from Air Force and Washington for proof. He also recently received varied levels of interest from nearby schools such as UCLA and USC.

“I've been hearing from some teams, but I don't worry about that stuff, my goal is take care of business on the field and things will work out off the field,'' Stanton said.

He made a name for himself this past season with the Eagles. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 2,439 yards and 13 touchdowns in the air. Equally effective on the ground, Stanton gained 1,428 yards rushing and found the end zone another 21 times.

If he's able to duplicate that type of production during his senior year, chances are Stanton's name will mentioned in the same sentence as the country's elite signal callers.

“In my 40 years of coaching, I haven't seen many players like Johnny,'' Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch said. “We've had a plenty of scouts at our practices over the course of this season to see him and we're just now starting to hear from colleges from all over the country.

“What people might not know about him is that Johnny also has a very strong academic background, he's a Stanford-type of individual which always looks good in the eyes of college coaches and scouts. Remember, we're talking about a kid who is 6-2 and close to 220 pounds.''

Whether Stanton emerges as a national recruit in the near future still remains to be seen. One thing is certain: He is heading in the right direction. The fact Stanton possesses most of the measurables and stats colleges look for in a quarterback certainly helps his cause.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Santa Margarita football coach Harry Welch, who has been on paid administrative leave for nearly four weeks, was reinstated by the school on Wednesday, it was announced in a letter from school President Paul Carey and Principal Ray Dunne.

Welch had been investigated by the Orange County Sheriff for an incident on Dec. 13 in which he allegedly pushed or shoved a player; however, the Orange County District Attorney declined to press charges against the coach because it didn't think they had enough evidence to win a conviction. The victim declined to press charges; the tip that the event occurred came from an anonymous source. The incident took place between Santa Margarita's victories in the Southern Section Pac-5 and CIF State Bowl Championships.

This was Welch's second season as coach; the Eagles are 22-5 in that span after going 6-14 the previous two seasons.

Here are the contents of the letter to parents from Carey and Dunne:
As you may be aware, Coach Harry Welch has been on administrative leave pending a joint review of a situation reported by a parent to the Principal's office. School administration, diocesan officials and local law enforcement have reviewed this matter. That comprehensive review has resulted in returning Coach Welch to his position and duties as Head Football Coach. The safety of our students was paramount in our review and will always remain our first consideration. While some of you may wish to know the details of the report, review, results and conditions of his return to duties, because of the laws of the State of California which protect the privacy rights of employees, neither the school administration nor diocesan officials are at liberty to provide any further detail. This is a protection that belongs to the employee who is not obligated to waive it. We assure you that the actions taken by the school administration and the diocese in this matter were taken to protect our students from risk.

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Santa Margarita football coach Harry Welch was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Orange County District Attorney, but the school announced that it wasn't ready to clear him to return to work, so he will remain on paid administrative leave.

School president Paul Carey and principal Ray Dunne sent a letter to football parents saying that just because Welch was cleared by the D.A., doesn't mean he has cleared a joint investigation by the school and the Diocese of Orange, which is still ongoing.

Here's the content of the letter that was sent on Saturday:

As you are aware Coach Harry Welch is currently on administrative leave while Santa Margarita Catholic High School Administration and Diocese Of Orange officials conduct a joint review of the matter. You may have read recent media blogs and elsewhere that the Orange County District Attorney's Office has declined to file criminal charges. This decision does not relieve the school and the diocese of their obligation to completely review the circumstances reported, and until such time, Coach Welch will remain on leave. Because of the laws of California which protect the privacy of employees, neither the school nor the diocese is at liberty to discuss the details or report any further on this matter at this time. We ask for your patience and cooperation while the school and the diocese complete their joint review. The safety of our students is, and will remain, our priority.

The school may take its time and be as thorough as possible given the support it gave to two assistant coaches who had pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana, and then firing them after more information became available.
Harry Welch slipped a tackle from the Orange County District Attorney on Thursday when it announced that it would not charge the Santa Margarita High football coach with assault.

[+] EnlargeHarry Welch
Jose Marin / Marin MediaSanta Margarita coach Harry Welch will not be charged with assault, it was announced Thursday.
The county sheriff had been investigating Welch because of an anonymous third-part tip that was received by the school via e-mail. Sheriff spokesman Jim Amormino said the coach was alleged to have "pushed or shoved" a player, although neither the victim nor his family wanted to file a complaint.

The incident took place Dec. 13, three days before the Pac-5 champion defeated San Jose Bellarmine, 42-37, for the CIF State Division I Bowl Championship.

"Based on a thorough review of all the evidence and the law, we believe that we can't prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt and that a jury would not return a guilty verdict," said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Welch, who has been on paid administrative leave since Friday, remains on leave by decree of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange because it and the school are still conducting their investigation, said diocese spokesman Stephen Bohannon.

Bohannon said he didn't know how long the investigation would take to complete, but they want to be thorough "to make sure everything is covered."

Santa Margarita had been 3-7 each of the two seasons before Welch was hired, but the program went 9-3 in 2010 and 13-2 in 2011. Welch himself has had extraordinary success, guiding three different teams to state bowl championships in six seasons, and he has coached teams to victory in 28 of his last 29 playoff games.
Santa Margarita notified parents Thursday through a letter that it had fired two assistant football coaches who pleaded guilty to a marijuana possession charge during the season. In its letter, the school explained that it didn't have all the facts when it allowed fulltime employee and receivers/defensive backs coach Sean Coen and walk-on receiver coach Robert Hendricks to continue in their role on the team through the season.

In a letter last week to parents, the school had defended its role, citing that the Diocese of Orange had made the determination about whether the men could coach and what punishment they would serve.

Santa Margarita won the Southern Section Pac-5 title as well as the Division I State Bowl game, the latter on Dec. 16.

After the convictions became publicized on Dec. 22, the school launched an internal investigation.

The letter Thursday from Principal Ray Dunne and President Paul Carey revealed a clearer timeline of how much the school knew and when. Basically, Coen and Hendricks were not forthcoming with their situation; they didn't notify head coach Harry Welch, the athletic department or the school of their legal issue. They didn't find out about Coen's involvement until the first week of October, and Hendricks until November.

According to the school's account, on Dec. 14, 2010, police responded to a noise complaint at a residence Coen and Hendricks shared with Charles Spann, a line coach at St. Margaret's. It was then that police discovered a marijuana growing operation in their garage, including a "pay-owe" ledger and a list of marijuana dispensaries. Additionally, there were hundreds of plants, along with five one-gallon bag of dried marijuana that weighed more than a pound. Although they were not arrested at that time, they received letters later saying they were being charged with two felonies, one for cultivating marijuana and the other for having it to sell.

On Sept. 15, 2011, the day that Santa Margarita played its third game, the three men took a plea deal, agreeing to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possessing more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, as well pleading guilty to an infraction for possessing less than 28.5 grams. After 18 months probation, after paying $500 to the Victim Wellness Emergency Fund and serving 90 days in jail -- they instead took an option of participating in a work furlough program instead of going to jail -- they could apply to have the misdemeanor stricken from their record, leaving only the infraction.

Below is the content of the letter:

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Harry WelchMartin HendersonHarry Welch and Santa Margarita celebrate their Division I State Bowl victory over Bellarmine.

CARSON -- From the stands, the crowd chanted "Johnny Stanton! Johnny Stanton!"

And Johnny Stanton delivered for them. He directed Santa Margarita 80 yards in the last two minutes, delivering his team and Coach Harry Welch with a Division I Bowl Championship on Friday.

Stanton's dive over the top of his huge offensive line -- and reaching over the plane of the end zone -- from one yard on fourth down with 16 seconds remaining gave Santa Margarita a 42-37 victory over San Jose Bellarmine Prep at Home Depot Center.

Stanton, one of nine juniors starting on offense, accounted for 375 of the Eagles' 407 yards of offense. He ran for 69 and passed for 306. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for two, both of them coming in the final seven minutes.

In victory, Santa Margarita (13-2) defeated a Bellarmine team that finished 12-2, its only other loss a season-opening 26-23 double-overtime decision to Concord De La Salle, which will play Westlake in the Open Bowl on Saturday.

Although Santa Margarita is typically a second-half team, it was Bellarmine that assumed control in the third quarter after going into the half tied at 21-21. Bellarmine quarterback Travis McHugh proved a worthy adversary of Stanton's as he accounted for 305 of Bellarine's 401 yards.

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Ryan WolpinAlex Gallardo/For ESPNLA.comRunning back Ryan Wolpin tallied 27 touchdowns and rushed for 1,637 yards in 2011 and returns to a stocked Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) offense in 2012.
Santa Margarita (12-2) vs. San Jose Bellarmine Prep (12-1) at Home Depot Center, Friday, 8 p.m.

Santa Margarita is in a CIF State Bowl game for the first time after winning the Southern Section's Pac-5 Division, but coach Harry Welch is in his third; he has won with Canyon Country Canyon in the first Division I Bowl, and San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's in the first Small Schools Bowl.

No team has played better opponents over the past six weeks than Santa Margarita: St. John Bosco (8-4), Servite (10-2), Bishop Amat (6-5), Long Beach Poly (10-2), Mission Viejo (10-3 and San Clemente (12-2). The only setback in that stretch was to Servite, 42-41, in overtime in the Trinity League finale; at the time, Servite was ranked No. 2 in the state and among the top 25 nationally.

Johnny Stanton (9 TDs, 9 int.) continues to make big plays, even though they may not result in touchdown passes. Stanton makes things happen, and he is averaging 103 yards rushing per game. Servite couldn't stop him, Poly couldn't stop him, Mission Viejo couldn't stop him, and San Clemente couldn't stop him, so it's going to be a tall order for Bellarmine to do something that those school couldn't.

Ryan Wolpin (27 TDs, 116 yards/game) is also effective behind the SMCHS offensive line. Led by USC-bound Max Tuerk (6-6, 296), who is one of two seniors in the starting lineup on offense, the line averages 299 pounds. By contrast, Bellarmine lists only one player bigger than 225 pounds.

The essence of this game boils down to the success of Bellarmine's offense against Santa Margarita's defense.

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1. What can you say about Santa Margarita quarterback Johnny Stanton? over the last five weeks, Servite couldn't stop him, Long Beach Poly couldn't stop him, Mission Viejo couldn't stop him, and San Clemente couldn't stop him. He may not even be the best quarterback in Orange County -- El Toro's Conner Manning certainly looks the part with more than 4,000 yards and 41 touchdowns -- but Stanton is the player of the year in Orange County.

2. Myron Miller has been coaching for 42 years, but Tustin's 35-28 Southwest Division victory Saturday afternoon in an upset of third-seeded El Toro was his first outright championship in seven finals appearances. He tied for one while at Ramona in the San Diego Section, but lost in the final at Costa Mesa and three times at Tustin before riding a physical defense and a ball control offense to victory at Angel Stadium. Edward Tandy's interception for a touchdown was huge, as were a pair of scores by Terence Martinez and Tyler Siudzinski. But you really have to admire Miller's commitment to his team; twice on the final five minutes -- in an effort to keep the ball away from El Toro -- he called on his offense to convert fourth down opportunities inside its own 30. That's faith in your team. Said Miller: "I'm going to do this until I'm 80." After reaching the finals three times in the last four years, it was good to see him win, finally.

3. What a surprise that Santa Margarita was selected to the Division I Bowl Championship. Santa Margarita had two losses, and the feeling outside the heads of the 10 commissioners who chose the Bowl participants was that undefeated Bakersfield would likely get the nod if not Vista Murrieta (undefeated on the field but with five forfeits), that Santa Margarita's loss to Mater Dei in the Trinity League opener would be a killer. It wasn't, even though commissioners haven't always given strength of schedule the credit it's due. It creates one terrific backstory: Eagles' coach Harry Welch has a chance to win his third Bowl game in six years with three different teams. He won with Canyon Country Canyon in 2005 with another two-loss team that upset Concord De La Salle in the Division I Bowl (before they had the Open game), and with San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's in 2008 in the Small School Bowl. If he succeeds, this is a milestone that likely will never be broken. For what it's worth, Welch has no plans to move on to a fourth team.

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Santa MargaritaAlex Gallardo/ESPNLosAngeles.comCoach Harry Welch celebrates winning the Pac-5 title with his team at Angel Stadium.

ANAHEIM -- For the ninth time in his career, Harry Welch raised a championship trophy over his head. If he could, he would raise Johnny Stanton, too. But Stanton did his own carrying Saturday night at Angel Stadium, carrying the Eagles to the Southern Section Pac-5 title with a 27-13 victory over San Clemente.

Welch has had a lot of these moments -- five with Canyon Country Canyon, three with San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's -- but when he grabbed the microphone after the game played in front of 14,424, he said "I have never been more proud than I am now."

The last three teams that Santa Margarita (12-2) defeated en route to their first championship since winning back-to-back in 1996-97 had only one loss; third-seeded Long Beach Poly (10-2), second-seeded Mission Viejo (11-2) and San Clemente (12-2).

If Welch loves this team, he'll love next year's too. Only two seniors start on offense, one of them being USC-bound lineman Max Tuerk. But the rest are underclassmen, including Stanton, the dual-threat quarterback who passed for 92 yards and ran for 148. His touchdown pass to River Cracraft with 11 seconds left in the first half gave Santa Margarita a 14-13 lead, and his two-yard score in the third quarter made it 21-13.

Then he engineered the drive of the game, one that covered 89 yards and consumed 9 minutes 56 seconds. It ended with Ryan Wolpin's second score, a three-yard run with 3:09 left in the game. It was at that point that San Clemente got its first possession of the fourth quarter. The Tritons had no more magic in what had been a magical season. Cracraft intercepted a Travis Wilson pass with 1:52 left in the game, and Santa Margarita ran out the clock.

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MISSION VIEJO -- With the game over and Santa Margarita ready to go through its post game drill, Johnny Stanton yelled over to Coach Harry Welch.

Welch turned.

Stanton held his hands at his waist and gave two thumbs up.


Stanton's magical season continued Friday as he guided the Eagles 70 yards and a one-yard touchdown with 1:02 remaining to beat second-seeded Mission Viejo, 21-20, before a sold-out stadium that seemed to live and die with every play.

In the end, it was Mission Viejo (10-3) that died, the end coming at its 37-yard line with two incomplete passes following Ian Dewert's sack of Alex Bridgford.

Santa Margarita (11-2), in its second season under Welch, is headed to the finals against San Clemente, a 51-16 winner over Tesoro in a clash of second- and third-place teams from the South Coast League. The championship will be played Saturday at Angel Stadium.

Welch, whose team finished second in the Trinity League to Servite, said reaching the Pac-5 finals in his second season meant a lot to him after winning five section championships at Canyon Country Canyon and three with St. Margaret's.

Stanton finished the game rushing 24 times for 115 yards and Ryan Wolpin carried 15 for 157, including touchdowns of one and 51 yards. The latter gave the Eagles a 14-7 lead early in the third quarter.

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No. 6 S. Marg. 28, No. 16 S.J. Bosco 20

November, 4, 2011

MISSION VIEJO -- The night was special for Johnny Stanton in more ways than one.

The Santa Margarita junior quarterback rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-20 victory Friday night against St. John Bosco, helping the Eagles take over sole possession of second place in the Trinity League heading into next week’s showdown against first-place Servite.

Along the way at Saddleback College, Stanton established school records for single-game and season rushing yards by a quarterback. Stanton now has 845 rushing yards this season, bettering the previous mark of 801 set by Michael Angelo in 2003.

Stanton did most of his damage on quarterback draws, taking advantage of huge holes opened by his massive offensive line, led by USC-bound tackle Max Tuerk. His 43-yard touchdown run on a draw late in the third quarter gave the Eagles a 21-13 lead.

“We weren’t expecting it to work that well,” Stanton said. “But, when a play works that well, you’ve just got to keep going to it.”

Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch says he thinks the play deserves another name.

“When you have Johnny Stanton, it’s different,” he said. “It’s not a quarterback draw. It’s Johnny Stanton up the middle.”

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MISSION VIEJO -- Do or die. If that wasn't the case when Santa Margarita faced Orange Lutheran on Friday, it's the case now for OLu.

Santa Margarita's 31-10 Trinity League victory at Saddleback College put the Lancers behind the 8-ball even though they came into the game ranked No. 17 in the Southland by ESPNLA. Last week, before losing to top-ranked Servite, they were No. 8.

That didn't matter to Johnny Stanton, who passed for one touchdown to close out the first half and ran for two touchdowns, both in the last five minutes of the game, to lead sixth-ranked Santa Margarita (6-1, 1-1) past the Lancers (5-2, 0-2).

Santa Margarita, ranked No. 2 last week before its stunning 21-14 defeat at the hands of Mater Dei, came into this contest and handled it like it was a playoff game. Coach Harry Welch said he didn't refer to it as a playoff game this week in practice, "but we did say we couldn't be in the playoffs if we didn't win this one."

If it wasn't a playoff game, it was a playoff caliber game.

Welch called Stanton "the engine that pulled us through" as Stanton rushed 13 times for 96 yards and completed nine of 14 passes for 139 yards.

"This game was really crucial," Stanton said. "We knew we were going to have to play a really tough OLu team this game, so we had to step it up in practice. We were all really focused."

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No more Mr. Nice Guy for Tuerk

October, 11, 2011
Max TuerkCourtesy Robert Russell Photography Max Tuerk has been sought after by most major Division I programs in the country.

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA -- When he is off the football field, Max Tuerk is about as nice as they come. Well-mannered. Well-spoken. Well-liked.

Once he steps out on the gridiron and the Friday night lights begin to flicker, the whole Mr. Nice Guy approach immediately becomes a thing of the past.

Tuerk's demeanor changes, seemingly 180 degrees.

His nasty streak reveals itself. At that point, it is wise for opponents to avoid the 6-foot-5, 285-plus pound offensive tackle from Santa Margarita at all costs. Defensive lineman rarely fare well in one-on-one matchups with Tuerk. Linebackers stand little, or no, chance. Cornerbacks and safeties, forget about it, the senior is winning that battle every time.

“I like to think my parents brought me up the right way. They did,” Tuerk said. “If the ball is snapped though, I don't know what happens to me. I turn into a totally different person. I really can't explain it. My mentality changes, or something. It's all business.''

Tuerk & Co. have recently been taking care of business. Heading into Thursday's Trinity League opener against host Santa Ana Mater Dei, the Eagles (5-0 overall) are on a roll. In fact, they recently moved up to No. 2 in the ESPNLosAngeles prep football Top 25 rankings.

In terms of being recognized as one of the premier programs the Southland has to offer, Santa Margarita was expected to take the next step this season. Many observers would not have imagined the transformation happening quite this fast for the Eagles.

Tuerk has been largely, though not solely responsible for directing the ascent. Still, the USC-committed recruit deserves some credit for the success thus far.

“You could tell that Max was truly something special from start,'' Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch said.

Given the fact he is considered a living legend in Southern California circles and has closely monitored Tuerk's development since signing on as the Eagles' head coach a few short years ago, the seal approval from Welch is about as good as it gets.

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MISSION VIEJO -- The highly anticipated Rumble at the Ranch on Friday turned out to be remarkably one-sided as No. 6 Santa Margarita scored a 39-7 victory over No. 24 Tesoro at Saddleback College.

The game wasn't as close as the score. Santa Margarita (2-0) committed two turnovers and several 15-yard penalties, but that didn't stop it from thoroughly beating its neighborhood rival.

"We played much better than I had any right to expect this early," said second-year coach Harry Welch. "Johnny Stanton is a pretty special kid. If I was playing agianst him, I'd be worried. Awfully great to have River Cracraft back (from an injury). And how about that defense?"

Stanton passed for 225 yards and two touchdowns to River Cracraft—he had five catches for 112 yards—as the Eagles (2-0) look forward to playing another local team next week, Trabuco Hills (2-0).

Stanton was 11 of 18 and his scores went for 34 and 15 yards. The dual-threat QB also scored on a seven-yard run that gave Margarita a 21-0 lead with 3 minutes 47 seconds left in the first half. He also carried 10 times for 66 yards, and Ryan Wolpin carried 14 for 115.

That defense dominated Tesoro (1-1), whose primary offensive weapons are versatile quarterback Matt Adam and running back Nate Tago.

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Skill players score touchdowns, but many coaches believe games are won on the offensive and defensive lines, and that's where Santa Margarita appears geared for battle.

In its second season under the direction of Harry Welch (232-51-2), Santa Margarita has a huge offensive front, and a pair of defensive ends that Welch says might be the best pair of bookends that he has coached.

Any discussion of line play begins with USC-bound left tackle Max Tuerk (6-6, 296) on a starting group that averages 6 feet 4 and 299 pounds. Tuerk is joined by left guard Cole Luther (6-0, 286), center Dane Crane (6-3, 295), right guard Erik Bunte (6-7, 301) and right tackle Riley Sorenson (6-5, 316). Nimble quarterback Johnny Stanton has to feel pretty good about having those guys leading the way.

The defensive ends that excite Welch so much are Chris Frost (6-4, 258) and Sean Donegan (6-4, 204), who has made huge strides since playing last season on the junior varsity.

Big and physical is a powerful combination.

Here's a closer look at the Eagles.

Team: Santa Margarita

Coach: Harry Welch, second year.

2010 Record: 9-3, lost to Mission Viejo in the second round of the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs.

Returning starters: Five total. Two on offense, three on defense.

Key players on offense: OT Max Tuerk (USC), WR/DB River Cracraft, QB Johnny Stanton, RB Ryan Wolpin, WR/DB Conner O’Brien.

Key players on defense: DE Chris Frost, NG Mack Pierson, DE Sean Donegan, LB Matt Anderson.

Difference maker: Cracraft (6-0, 195), a junior, is the Eagles' most gifted athlete but may not play for a few weeks because of a shoulder injury. When he returns to the field, opponents will find he has an incredible sense for going to the ball — and for picking up yards after he gets it.

Newcomers: DB Konner Kafentzis, a transfer from Salt Lake City; WR Sean Modster, a transfer from Capistrano Valley; DB Reid Andrew, DB Houston Agan, DE Sean Donegan, NT Ian Dewert, LB Sammy Gibbs, OL Eric Bunte.

Not to be missed: Santa Margarita vs. Mater Dei at Santa Ana Stadium, Oct. 13. It's the Trinity League opener, and both teams know a victory here will go a long way toward getting one of three playoff berths. Not only is the game valuable in the standings, but for momentum, too, with big games looming the following week.

Coach’s comment: “Our biggest concern is inexperience,” Welch said. “We have two offensive seniors starting and three defensive players with experience. With good fortune, a lack of injuries and the maturation of our young team we should be OK. The work ethic, attitude and effort has been outstanding.”

Final analysis: Welch has won large- and small-school State Bowl Championships with Canyon Country Canyon and St. Margaret's Episcopal. His impact as a coach was seen last year when the Eagles did a 180 — they went from no Trinity League wins to four in 2010, and from three wins overall to nine. That was just in his first season. Now, with a full year under Welch and his influence taking an even stronger hold, the program might be ready to take the next step and dethrone six-time defending league champion Servite and make a run for the Pac-5 title.