4 Questions with Jenkins coach Tony Welch


Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Today’s interviewee is Jenkins coach Tony Welch, whose team defeated Dutchtown 28-27 last week to reach the Class 5A quarterfinals. With a 5-7 record, Jenkins is the only sub-.500 team still playing, but the Warriors also have played Class 5A’s toughest schedule. It has included Carrollton, Benedictine, Ware County and Coffee. Jenkins made the quarterfinals from 2017 to 2019, but that was in Class 3A. This is Jenkins’ best finish in one of the higher classifications since 1966. Jenkins will play at No. 4 Cartersville on Friday.

1. How did you and your staff get the players to believe they could win these games? “We have never doubted what we could do as a team. We have played a tough schedule for the purpose of getting better in what I call our third season. Season one: Non-region games, 1-4. Season two: Region games, 2-3. Season three: GHSA state playoffs, 2-0. We have played hard all year, and now it is paying off.”

2. What was the biggest single play of the Dutchtown game. Describe it. What happened? “Dutchtown scored on a series that should not have been continued because the official called holding on our cornerback that was on the opposite side, our right side, and their quarterback rolled to our left and was called for a safety, but it was overturned. Moving forward, we blocked the PAT, which made it a 28-27 game, and we got the ball back with 4:10 left in the game at their 45 yard line. It was fourth-and-5. I called timeout with 1:29 left in the game. We ran 46 power and gained 11 yards to secure the victory.”

3. You’ve coached three Savannah schools, two public, one private. You came back to Savannah after coaching Claxton, your alma mater. What attracts you to Savannah, and what is the key to being successful there that might be different in other places? “As I have stated in the past, I left Savannah High after a sweet 16 run [Savannah High’s first state-playoff victory in 47 years in 2016] to go home [to Claxton] and take care of my mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer, so when I decided to come back to Savannah [to coach Jenkins], it was like leaving home again to go home. Savannah has been great to me and my family.

“Being successful here will always be a challenge because it is known as a basketball city; however, when I was at Memorial Day School [2006-13], we had great student-athletes that moved on to the next level because we began winning championships. A recruiter told me and Coach [Michael] Thompson that they used to get to Interstate 95 and drive north and south and not come into Savannah. We were blessed to have football players that made it worth the recruiters’ time to come to Savannah and recruit more football players out of Savannah. [Memorial Day won six GISA championships from 2008 to 2017].

“A lot of our public schools are struggling because of staff issues as far as getting coaches on their staff and not being able to go out and recruit football players that the private schools are recruiting. If our athletes that play football or sports in general would stay and play at their district schools, all our programs would be successful. I have nothing against any of the private schools that are here in Savannah. I have a great relationship with all their coaches and staff, but if I can go get who I need and want, I should be successful each year.

“My mindset is that private schools in Savannah are making me set our team goals at a high level, just like their mindset is, and that is to compete for championships each year.”

4. If you were the color commentator for a game involving Jenkins, what would you say about your team? “Our guys play hard and continue to fight to the end. We have a saying that each day we have a ‘Chance and Choice.’ God has given us the opportunity to breathe and live for another day. That’s the Chance. Now the Choice that we make is strictly up to us. We must make great choices for us to survive as a student, athlete and person. God has been so good to our program at Jenkins High School and to me personally in my career.”

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