Masterful coach finds ideal pupil in Johnny Stanton

Besides being the only coach in California to have won CIF state bowl games with two different teams, Harry Welch is a master teacher when it comes to developing quarterbacks.

He’s a perfectionist, which means his pupils will inevitably experience a love-hate relationship as he tries to bring out their skills.

Whether coaching at Canyon Country Canyon, San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s or his current assignment, Santa Margarita, Welch won’t let a quarterback fail, but to reach the level of success that he demands requires commitment, sacrifice and extreme focus.

Those are the qualities junior quarterback Johnny Stanton brings to the Eagles, so Welch has the ideal candidate around which to build his team.


“It’s tough, but he makes me so much better,” Stanton said of the challenge Welch presents. “He makes me a better quarterback. He makes me a better person.”

Welch, in his 23rd season as a head coach and 45th season coaching football, understands that he’s not the easiest person to train under.

“I don’t know how a player would say it’s not tough playing for me,” he said. “I always feel when we reach the edge of the envelope, I push the envelope further.”

Stanton is a straight-A student who can run and pass. His toughness is unquestioned, and his ability to perform under pressure is proven. Now it’s up to Welch to fine tune and bring out even more ability.

“I think Johnny Stanton has a wonderful future,” Welch said. “He’s intelligent, he’s creative, he’s focused. He’s a caring person with lots of gifts. I have to help him develop his potential, which is immense.”

Stanton could be a difference maker when the Trinity League begins in two weeks. Only three of the six teams can qualify for the Pacific-5 playoffs, and there’s no certainty which teams will emerge after a brutally tough five-week physical and mental grind.

There are going to be so many big games -- Servite-Mater Dei, Servite-Santa Margarita, Servite-Orange Lutheran, St. John Bosco-Servite, Santa Margarita-Orange Lutheran -- that fans and players will have little time to celebrate victories or sob in defeat, because every week there’s going to be a new titanic battle.

And that’s where the combination of Welch and Stanton is going to help Santa Margarita navigate through the expected highs and lows.

“Every game matters, but every game we need to improve, and by the end of the season, we’ll be in top form,” Stanton said.

Santa Margarita has an imposing offensive line, led by USC commit Max Tuerk. The defense has a rising standout in defensive end Chris Frost (seven sacks). There’s not a lot of team speed, but that never prevented Welch’s teams from winning championships at Canyon and St. Margaret’s.

Stanton will be the one counted on to lift up his teammates. He has plenty of resiliency, something I saw when he had a couple of bad interceptions earlier against Trabuco Hills but kept his head up and moved on.

Most of all, he’ll have the one and only Welch on the sideline encouraging him, challenging him and making sure he never feels completely satisfied.

There’s a method to the madness.

“I hope he lives to be 100 years old and on that last day, he’s still trying to be a little bit better,” Welch said. “That’s what I hope for myself, so I’m going to push Johnny. It’s not easy sometimes, but I’m very proud of him. If I’m able to help him, he’s going to be terrific.”