Scorps' Welsh putting up his best QB stats Football: Oakland Mills leader, now in his third season, credits two camps and one friendly receiver with his improved confidence and performance.

October 15, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

A year ago, Oakland Mills had a potent offense.

But take away the mammoth blocking of 6-foot-4, 240-pound Greg Kellett, who graduated and now starts at tight end for Marshall.

And take away the effectiveness of Vinnie Rubbo, who ran for a school-record 1,873 yards last season but has struggled since spraining his ankle in the first game.

Then what chance does that leave for Oakland Mills to have a decent offense? Slim or none, right? The Scorpions passing attack was weak the past two seasons, and they have the same quarterback, T.J. Welsh, now playing his third season.

Surprise. A transformed Welsh is directing the Scorpion offensive fortunes this season.

After six games and 889 yards passing, his previous season high of 690 yards is history. He already has 10 touchdown tosses, surpassing his previous career total of eight. And for the first time, he is above the 50 percent completion level. He's 43 for 83.

The result of that statistical improvement is a 5-1 record for the Scorpions, who are steaming toward a Class 1A state playoff berth.

"After two so-so seasons, I decided enough was enough, it's time to get the job done," said Welsh, who almost never received his chance at redemption. Targeted in pre-season to play tight end this fall, the quarterback job reverted to him only when a transfer prospect didn't pan out.

"Yeah, I was going to play tight end, but that didn't bother me. As long as we win, I'd play tackle," Welsh said.

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Welsh has all the physical tools the quarterback position demands.

"His arm strength is as good as any around," Oakland Mills coach Ken Hovet said. "He can hit the deep-out on the sideline. He can bring it. And he shows more poise and control during games."

What Welsh lacked in previous seasons was confidence. Two things boosted it.

"Going to football camps at Maryland and Princeton this summer improved my confidence," Welsh said. "And having Tom Browne to throw to."

The dynamic passing duo grew up together. Browne's house sits 30 yards behind Welsh's, and they played years of backyard football.

"I've been throwing to him all my life," Welsh said. "We went to pre-school together."

But Browne ran cross country his freshman year and didn't play football until last season. "It took him [Browne] a year to learn how to play," Hovet said.

In last week's important 18-13 win over Long Reach, Browne caught five passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns, raising his season totals to 22 catches for 519 yards and eight touchdowns.

Welsh's transformation impresses opposing coaches.

"I'd vote for him for All-County," Centennial coach Ed Holshue said. "He's hard to knock down. He can see. And he can throw deep."

Welsh's 67-yard pass to Browne late in the game Sept. 19 beat Centennial, 12-7.

Soccer burnout caused Welsh to switch to football. During a seven-year soccer career, he played at travel level and won a state cup with some of the best current county players, among them River Hill's Aaron McKinley and Randal Brown, Wilde Lake's Scott Terrill, and Centennial's Mike Dramby.

"I was a center midfielder and wasn't bad," Welsh said.

But basketball was his best sport, heading into high school. He played on travel teams, one of which included Vinnie Rubbo, Murray Graves, Joey Ellis and Browne from Oakland Mills, and Welsh's best friend, Matt Deuchler from Centennial. Welsh played two seasons of high school basketball but took last season off.

He also plays baseball at Oakland Mills and is a good golfer. He works at Hobbit's Glen.

In addition to sports activities, Welsh helps inspire special education students by working in the Peer System one period every other day.

"I enjoy that. They are good kids," Welsh said.

With a 3.4 grade-point average and 1,100 SAT score, his goals are to play college football and then go to law school.

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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