Over the next 21 days, the Star will reveal our picks for Tucson’s best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown continues today with Pat Welchert, who helped Salpointe Catholic reach the state finals for just the second time in program history.
No. 21: Pat Welchert
School: Salpointe Catholic
Years in coaching: 1986-2000
Career record: 89-71-1
Achievements: Welchert’s 15 years at Salpointe showed the Lancers something they’d never seen: coaching longevity. Prior to his run, none of the previous 11 coaches spent more than eight years with the team, and just Ed Doherty and Gene McCarter were with the Lancers for more than four seasons. While the stability was one thing, Welchert also guided Salpointe to success it hadn’t seen in its long history. He was the only coach to reach the semifinals or further twice until last fall, when the Lancers captured the Division II state title under Dennis Bene. That was the first time Salpointe was in the state finals since 1991, when Welchert’s squad got out to a 1-2-1 start but finished 10-3-1 and was the Class 5A runner-up behind a potent rushing attack anchored by running back Chris Hopkins. Doherty, who coached the Lancers from 1977-82, was the only other coach to reach the state finals in the program’s history. Welchert almost made it back to the championship game in 2000, but sixth-seeded Mesa Westwood overcame a 14-0 deficit late to beat the Lancers 21-20 in the semifinals. Three months after the season ended, Welchert, who graduated from Salpointe in 1978, stepped down to pursue a business career and recommended Bene as his replacement.
Memorable moment: Welchert’s final win with the Lancers was surely one to remember and one of the biggest in the program’s history. His 10th-seeded squad held No. 2 Chandler Hamilton scoreless for three quarters and beat the Huskies 24-6 in the 5A state quarterfinals in 2000. Quarterback-turned-defensive back Ben Provost, who was inserted because of injuries, dominated the first quarter on both sides of the ball for the Lancers. He swung the momentum in Salpointe’s favor early when he returned his first of two interceptions in the opening period for a 45-yard touchdown. Then Provost hit Scott Willmeng with a 15-yard scoring pass to make it 14-0. Salpointe led 17-0 at the half and forced four turnovers in the game, while allowing the Huskies past midfield just once all night.
From the archives: “I really looked up to him. He is one of those guys when he talks, everybody listens.
He’s taught me a lot. I started out undisciplined and he got me in the groove of things. It seems weird that he won’t be coaching anymore.” – Former Salpointe and UA kicker Ryan Slack in the Feb. 9, 2001, Arizona Daily Star
Big number: 4,103. Welchert’s rushing attack in 1991 totaled a school-record 4,103 yards. The only team that came close to the mark was in 2012, when the Lancers rushed for 3,390 yards. Hopkins, who went on to play at Arizona State, accounted for 2,107 yards in 1991 and still holds the individual single-season record. His 31 touchdowns that season were also a program best until last fall, when Cameron Denson scored 32.
Coming up: Find out who is ranked No. 20 in Tuesday’s Star.