Little did Nick Welch know that his final high school football game as a junior last year would be against his future team.
Fountain Valley is the team Welch seriously injured his right throwing hand against in a Sunset League opener. For a quarterback, you need your hand to grip the ball and throw it accurately, yet Welch stayed in the game for Huntington Beach.
Welch managed to throw two touchdowns, and the Oilers won easily. Three days later, he said he found out that he broke his hand.
Welch’s season was over. His time with the Oilers was over as well.
He quit the team, then left the school, transferring to Fountain Valley.
“I wasn’t feeling right at Huntington. It wasn’t for me,” Welch said. “My grades were slipping. I came [to Fountain Valley during the] second semester [of the 2016-17 school year], and it has just been a better fit. Everybody loves me here. It’s nice. Everyone’s got my back.”
As for the Barons breaking his hand, there are no more hard feelings from Welch. He and the Barons are now smashing opponents, outscoring them 86-2 in the first two games.
Welch has led Fountain Valley to a 2-0 start, doubling the program’s win total from a year ago. He has thrown for 489 yards and six touchdowns, with no interceptions, and rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
The success has reaffirmed Welch’s decision to start fresh at a new school. He left a program in midst of making the CIF Southern Section Division 7 playoffs last year for one coming off a one-win season.
Not many would make such a move. Welch had his reasons.
“Some teammates on the [Huntington Beach] team were kind of talking bad behind my back. I honestly couldn’t tell you [why],” Welch said. “They just didn’t like me, I guess. It was [hard]. It kind of shook me. It hurt.”
When Welch arrived at Fountain Valley, Barons coach Jimmy Nolan said he knew something was bothering Welch. Nolan can usually figure out when something is wrong with a player.
Nolan has coached in some of the toughest environments, including two years at Compton Centennial, where he had players fear for their lives on a daily basis because of gangs. He protected them, fed them, and offered them guidance.
With Welch, he never went to Nolan, a walk-on coach, to talk about what happened at Huntington Beach.
“I don’t really like talking about that stuff,” Welch said. “I just like to look to the future, try to get better.”
There almost wasn’t a future for Welch with Fountain Valley’s football program.
Even though he transferred to the school, there was no guarantee that the 6-foot, 185-pounder would suit up for the Barons in Nolan’s second year.
“He wasn’t interested. He just no longer enjoyed the sport,” Nolan said of Welch. “[He was] really quiet, didn’t talk to anybody. You could tell the kid was going through some adversity in life, but I think just being around the fellas, he started to enjoy it. The next thing I know it just clicked one day [in the spring]. He decided he wanted to do this, starting working really hard, showing up everyday. I didn’t know if we necessarily had a quarterback, because you look at his film at Huntington, he just ran the football.”
Welch has turned into a dual-threat quarterback in his senior year. He worked on his arm, beating out last year’s rotating quarterbacks — Garrett Horn and Andrew Ross — for the starting job.
The Barons have one signal caller, and he’s making the right calls. Last week in their 48-0 win over South Torrance, Welch went off in the first half. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns, and he rushed 10 times for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
One half is all the Barons played Welch. That was enough because playing at Cap Sheue Field again meant something to Welch.
The field at Huntington Beach is home to the Oilers and Barons, and the site marked the first time Welch competed in a game there since his last one with the Oilers.
“It was a little bit [emotional], but at the end of the day, it was just another football field and I just wanted to get the job done,” Welch said. “I wanted to play football.”
Welch and the Barons play again on Friday, with a chance to go 3-0 for the first time in eight years. Fountain Valley, ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 poll, plays host to Trabuco Hills (1-1) at 7 p.m.
Welch expects to have Kishaun Sykes back from an injured ankle that forced the junior to miss last week. Without Sykes, Adam Arganda became the top deep threat, and he delivered, finishing with five catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Through two games, Welch and Arganda have hooked up for four touchdowns, a 75-, 66-, 30- and 21-yarder. The two hit it off right away, as Arganda was one of the first players to befriend Welch at Fountain Valley.
“He was actually in my history class,” Welch said.
The rest has been history.
As for Welch’s past with the Oilers, he will get to face his former team. He knows the game will be the second in league this year, on Oct. 13.
“I look forward to every game, but, yeah, I am looking forward to that game,” said Welch, adding that the contest is just a little bit more special. “It was hard to leave [Huntington Beach], leaving all my friends. I made good bonds there. I made bad bonds there. But I knew I’d had to get over it and keep working.”
Born: Jan. 8, 2000
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 6 foot
Weight: 185 pounds
Coach: Jimmy Nolan
Favorite foods: Steak and potatoes
Favorite movie: "Apocalypto”
Favorite athletic moment: “Scoring five touchdowns in the first half against South Torrance [last week].”
Week in review: Welch completed 15 of 23 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns, and he rushed 10 times for 53 yards and two touchdowns in Fountain Valley’s 48-0 win against South Torrance last week.