There is something special about him. He called himself a gambler Friday night after his team won the State Division I Bowl championship, coming back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
He gambled with less than two minutes remaining when he told his defense to let the other team score so that the Eagles could get the ball back with enough time to win the game.
Then he gambled on fourth and one, with 16 seconds left, and bet on his offensive line and his quarterback.
Harry Welch knows the game, and he knows players. And, apparently, he knows the odds.
He called the leader of his offensive line, Max Tuerk, and the leader of his team, Johnny Stanton, a couple of thoroughbreds. So he put his confidence and the ball in their hands, and with Stanton's touchdown they delivered a 42-37 victory over San Jose Bellarmine.
Santa Margarita's first Bowl victory is the third for Welch in a span of six years.
With three different schools.
The Eagles scored half of their 42 points in the fourth quarter, and though the action took place on the field, it was on the sidelines where the transcendent moment took place. Welch became something special.
He gained membership into the club that includes the likes of Bob Ladouceur, Jim Blewett, Dick Bruich, Steve Grady, Marijon Ancich, Herb Meyer, Gene Vollnagle and Clare Van Hoorebeke. Every one of them, a high school coaching legend.
Twenty years after he's gone, they'll still remember Harry Welch. What his team did on Friday will be a major reason. It will be one of the defining moments of his legacy.
He is both the offensive and defensive coordinator of his team. He doesn't wear a headset linked to coaches in the press box to get their ideas or the benefit of their bird's-eye view. He doesn't load his schedule with patsies to inflate his record, which is now 244-51-2, which is more than eight wins out of every 10 games.
As legends go, Ladouceur may be in a league of his own. His Concord De La Salle team once won 151 consecutive games. Welch beat Ladouceur in 2006 in the inaugural Division I Bowl. At the time of Canyon Country Canyon's 27-13 upset, De La Salle was ranked No. 1 in the nation and Canyon had two losses.
That was the last game that Welch coached for Canyon, where he once won 46 consecutive games. He won five Southern Section titles there before he left on his own terms, unhappy with the school's administration.
He moved to Coto de Caza to be close to his grandchildren and took over at tiny St. Margaret's Episcopal. He won three section titles at St. Margaret's, where a championship program was already in place. All Welch did was keep winning; three titles came on his watch, but his players at the time said that he had taken the team to another level. St. Margaret's won the state's first Small School Bowl championship in 2008 with a 59-7 victory over Hamilton.
The word "legend" is a bit like "superstar," it tends to get tossed around entirely too much. So, is Welch really a legend? Seriously?
"Yep, there's no question," said Marty Spalding, the line coach at Santa Margarita who also won section titles as an assistant at El Toro, Laguna Hills and Mission Viejo. "He deserves to be considered a high school coaching legend based on what he did at Santa Margarita alone.
"When we started coaching, really coaching, our daily practices were full-blown. We looked at each other and said we won't be able to beat anybody."
Instead, they have almost beaten everybody.
The Eagles were a decade removed from their best years when Welch was chosen ahead of 41 other candidates, including an assistant at the University of Oklahoma and another coach whose reputation reaches from California to Maine, Bob Johnson.
Santa Margarita had gone 3-7 the previous two seasons and failed to win a league game for the first time in school history. The Eagles had gone three seasons without a winning record. That's the challenge that Welch was running toward.
He put his credibility on the line. Success was not a gimme. What if he failed?
But the Eagles were 9-3 last season—one in which Welch had prostate cancer surgery during a bye week—and 13-2 this season.
Next year, they ought to be even better.
Over the past seven seasons, Welch's teams have won six section titles. Incredibly, in that span his teams are 28-1 in the playoffs.
Twenty-eight and one.
Anything over .500 would be considered good.
He is breathing rare air.
Three Bowl wins with three different teams is an accomplishment that will likely never be broken or even matched—certainly not in the same time span as Welch. Not in his lifetime, nor the lifetime of his players, and probably not the lifetimes of their grandchildren.
He is 66 now. He's on the back end of the journey, and so moments like Friday's are special. He says all his championships are special, but make no mistake—this was different. This one was really special.
And Welch isn't going anywhere as long as his health holds out. He still enjoys the coaching, the teaching, the going for it on fourth down, and he said Friday he would stay "as long as the community and administration want me to."
This would be a great way to go out, to pass the torch if he wanted. He doesn't want to. He's happy coaching in one of America's five toughest leagues and playing in the toughest 16-team tournament in the country.
It's hard to win games and championships at this level.
But Welch isn't afraid of damaging his credibility or risking his legacy.
He is, after all, a gambler.