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At Santa Margarita, Harry Welch will face a tall challenge

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Welch, who has a 222-49-2 record, will be coaching the Eagles in the Pac-5, the most competitive football division in California. 'I thought it was something I shouldn't pass up,' he says.

January 22, 2010|Eric Sondheimer

Harry Welch says he's not afraid of challenges or hard work.

"I relish it," he said.

In 36 years of coaching, from Canyon Country to Orange County, the 64-year-old Welch knows how to produce winning football programs.

But he'll be facing his biggest test yet after accepting the position of head coach at Santa Margarita today, putting him in the tough Trinity League and in the most competitive football division in California, the Pac-5.

"The challenge is exciting," he said. "I live in this community. I thought I had even more to give. When this opportunity came up, I thought it was something I shouldn't pass up. I believe I can serve this school and this community and give them what I hope is something very special."

It's both a gamble and an opportunity for Welch to add to an already impressive coaching resume; he has won eight Southern Section championships while being the only coach to have directed two different teams to state bowl game championships. His career record is 222-49-2.

Welch guided Canyon Country Canyon to five titles, including a 46-game winning streak. He went to San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's three years ago to move closer to family members and directed the team to three consecutive section titles.

The Rancho Santa Margarita school is so close to his home that he takes his dog on 3.7-mile walks to the campus.

To Welch, it makes perfect sense for him to return to big-school football with the Eagles, but the opposition isn't getting any easier.

With defending Pac-5 champion Anaheim Servite, Santa Ana Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran possessing power programs, plus Bellflower St. John Bosco hiring a new coach and JSerra making progress, Santa Margarita has been stuck just trying to make the playoffs. Former Coach Mike Jacot resigned after seven years and a 38-38 record.

"It may be the best league in America," Welch said. "That's exciting but also very rewarding for the school and the young men to compete at the highest level."

So, is Welch feeling any pressure to win?

"Winning has never come up in the discussions," he said. "I think they want me for who I am. They know I care, they know I'm involved with the community. They've seen the type of teams I've coached."

Welch will remain at St. Margaret's until the semester ends next week, then begin the process of hiring a coaching staff.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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