Avery Welch has long been attracted to the physical nature of playing football.

Heading into his junior season, the Indian Creek running back was determined to channel his own aggressiveness into improving his all-around performance.

Seeking to become the Braves’ go-to option in new coach Brett Cooper’s multiple pro offense, Welch made it his offseason mission to attack the weight room the way he would an opposing linebacker.

By the summer, Welch had upped his maximum bench press to 245 pounds and squat to 400 pounds. He power cleans as much as 235 pounds. The additional strength in his legs and upper body helps Welch fight through tackles he might not have previously been equipped to break.

Psychological benefits also exist. Welch feels strong and is therefore prepared to run the football with more confidence. And it shows — going into tonight, he’s the county’s second-leading rusher with 498 yards on 67 carries.

“This season has been great. I love this offense,” Welch said. “Our offensive line has stepped up its game, and we’ve become more of a power running team.

“I like to describe myself as more of a power runner. If I have a hole, I’m going to hit it hard.”

Running as a single back in the shotgun formation, Welch takes handoffs from quarterback Taylor Voris and frequently follows the blocks of junior tight end Vinny Greene, who is often pulling on the play.

Others carving out running lanes are starting linemen Ryan McGillem, Austin Meyer, Skyler Marshall, Kenny Edwards and Dawson McGlothlin.

Nine players have carried the pigskin for Indian Creek this season. Through four games, the Braves are running 67 percent of the time — a noticeable uptick from the more pass-oriented offensive philosophy of former Braves coach Mike Gillin.

Welch averages 7.4 yards a carry for Indian Creek (3-1), which tonight hosts Class 2A No. 10 Triton Central. The Tigers’ defense has surrendered 26 points this season after holding its first two opponents scoreless.

This is the kind of challenge Welch envisioned when motivating himself for repeated walks to the school’s weight  room in the offseason.

“He’s a power runner with a little bit of speed. That kid, you watch him on film last year to this year, he found the weight room in one year, and it significantly changed his appearance on the field,” Cooper said. “I mean, he was a good player, but it’s a night-and-day difference.

“And we needed this from him. We needed to see the progression from last year to this, and we’ve seen it so far. We’re going to stick with what works, and up front we’re playing pretty well.”

Welch wrestled, played baseball, basketball and ran track when he was younger. But it’s football where he most excelled.

His mother, Stephanie Patterson, tells the story of how Welch as a 5-year-old had no interest in playing flag football with those his age. The reason: He could neither deliver nor receive contact.

“I think football has given him a tremendous drive. It’s given him a focus,” Patterson said. “He loves football so much because it’s such a physical sport and there’s such good camaraderie.”

By the numbers

BORN TO RUN

A season-by-season look at Avery Welch’s football career at Indian Creek High School (2017 numbers through four games):

Year;Att;Yds;TD

2015;17;73;1

2016;82;542;6

2017;67;498;6

Totals;166;1,113;13

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.