Don’t expect Michael Welsh to be too nervous.
In his third season as the starting quarterback for the Shawnee High School football team, the senior has played on the biggest stage twice before. He’s directed the Renegades to their third straight South Jersey Group 4 title game – all against Timber Creek – and knows what it takes to walk off the turf at Rowan University with a trophy in his hands.
“The team really pushes itself to the brink every offseason and it starts there. We’ve worked really hard,” said Welsh, who can become the first starting QB since Paulsboro’s Kevin Harvey to win three straight sectional titles.
“I’m always a little nervous going into big games, but I’d say I’m more comfortable going into this situation. I feel like I can handle any situation that may cause adversity. To be playing in a great game like this is definitely a blessing and I’m honored to be playing a great team like Timber Creek.”
The No. 2 seed, Shawnee (9-2) has won eight straight and Welsh has been the catalyst.
Drawing the most college interest from Maine, Lehigh and Monmouth, Welsh has completed 139-of-240 passes for 1,848 yards and 21 touchdowns. He threw for a career-high 352 yards and five TDs in a win over Clearview and has surrendered just five interceptions.
He is also the Renegades’ second-leading rusher with 691 yards and 11 touchdowns on 123 carries.
In 39 career games, Welsh is 282-of-521 for 4,031 yards and 44 touchdowns. He’s rushed for 1,560 yards and 31 TDs.
“He’s been around football a long time,” said veteran head coach Tim Gushue, who coached Welsh’s father and current Shawnee assistant, Tim. “I remember when he was five years old. We were driving home from a Penn State game and he was drawing plays in the back seat. He’s been around the game and he studies the game. His football IQ is very high.
“He’s a student of the game. He stepped in early and showed he was the best. Each year there’s been a progression in every phase of the game.”
Welsh says he enjoys playing in big games, and it doesn’t get any bigger than this. He helped the Renegades win last season’s finale 28-7. As a sophomore, they held on for a 31-22 victory.
“There are no surprises for me anymore,” he said. “Getting a Group 4 championship would be awesome.”
Welsh has become an extension of the coaching staff, an undisputed leader that teammates look up to and respect.
“He has a lot of confidence. He works hard and is very unselfish,” Gushue said. “ He wants the team to get better.
“Michael has that intangible that some guys have. He has the it factor. It’s not something you can measure with a stopwatch or go get a tape measure and evaluate. Some guys have that knack for staying calm under pressure and making the big play for their team when they need it. You try to coach it, but I’ve been coaching long enough to know that some players just have it.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
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