By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — Lewis Cass’ football team is once again marching toward the postseason with plans on being a top contender in the Class 2A playoffs.
Like he was a year ago, Gabe Welch is one of the key players for the Kings.
Welch returns this season as the Kings’ starting fullback, and for his senior year he is starting at a linebacker spot as well.
“He’s been our fullback the past two years,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “We always think we need to have someone ready to play and he’s a guy that always rises to the top on offense. Defensively we’re asking him to play linebacker. Last year he didn’t play a lot of defense but he’s become a guy that doesn’t come off the field for us. Obviously he’s one of our leaders. He’s starting to have a great senior year.”
Welch is not the biggest fullback/linebacker in the world at 5-5, 163 pounds but plays bigger than his size.
“He’s kind of small, he’s not the fastest player we’ve got, but he’s just a tough kid. He’s a competitor,” Mannering said. “We put him at linebacker and he’s a good, physical player there. He’s gotten better every week. Offensively we play a couple different people at that position he plays and he’s always shown he’s the best guy. He’s made himself a good football player. It’s neat to see. He’s had a good career and hopefully in the second half of the season he’ll have a really good football season.”
The Kings are 2-3 this season. They have lopsided wins over Pioneer and Peru and their three losses are to Class 3A opponents, West Lafayette, Northwestern and Hamilton Heights.
“It’s definitely not how we expect to be, last year coming off an 11-2 year,” Welch said. “Losing doesn’t come lightly with us. But we’ve played some tough teams well and as long as we get better we’ll have a shot in the tournament. Maybe if things go right we’ll have a shot in the conference.”
The Kings usually throw a plethora of running backs at opposing defenses and Welch has been one of the mainstays at fullback.
“That’s what I love about our offense ... ground and pound and we almost never lose yards on plays,” he said.
As for improvements on offense the Kings have made in recent weeks, Welch said, “We’ve just got to keep playing with intensity. When we get tired we lose focus and our pad level gets high, especially on the line. Our line is key because without the holes there’s nowhere to run. So intensity and pad level.”
On defense, Welch said, “Get faster really, from the mental aspect recognizing formations and possible plays and flying to the football. Earlier in the season we did a terrible job of everyone running to the ball, and broken tackles were leading to touchdowns. When we watch the film on Saturday there should be seven or eight Blue shirts around the ball carrier.”
The Kings are coming off a 46-7 pasting of a previously undefeated Peru team.
“I just think they were overconfident,” Welch said. “They didn’t play the best quality teams before us. We had played four solid teams that gave us a chance to get better.”
The Kings travel to Eastern on Friday with a chance to even up their record both on the season and in Mid-Indiana Conference play.
“I think if we stop the pass we’ll have it locked in pretty tight. They’re a 70/30 passing team,” Welch said. “We’ve got burned on some passing plays this season so we’ll have to handle that on defense pretty well.”
Welch was a semistate qualifier in wrestling a year ago at 145 pounds.
The following is a question-and-answer session with Welch.
Q. Of the sports you play, which is your favorite? Why?
A. It is a tie. There is nothing like getting my hand raised after a wrestling match. No other sport creates brotherly bonds like football.
Q. Do you have any family members who played sports?
A. My mom [Heather] swam and dove for Pioneer and my dad played [Michael] football, golf and wrestled at Cass.
Q. How do you feel you’ve improved as an athlete since you first started playing?
A. Tremendously. With the support of the coaching staff and my family, I had a lot of encouragement and learned something new every day.
Q. Who do you consider your biggest role model? Why?
A. My dad. He was not dealt the best cards, but he knows how to play his hand and make the best of his situation. I hope some day I am like him.
Q. What experiences have you had in sports have made you the athlete you are today?
A. I went to the T. Robinson Intensive Camp in Forest City, Iowa for 10 days this summer. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it taught me life lessons and how to work hard.
Q. What is something that not everyone knows about you?
A. I really enjoy art. I spend a lot of time in the art room, and I am currently in a printing class.
Q. What is your favorite memory of playing sports at your school?
A. Last year at MIC for wrestling I beat a wrestler from Peru, who had previously beaten me four times, in a nail-biting match. Then in the championship match I wrestled a friend from Western that had beaten me multiple times before. I pinned him with 9 seconds left in the first — then ran over and jumped on my dad. I have never smiled so big.
Q. What’s your favorite music, movie, TV show, etc.?
A. Music: 3 Days Grace. Movie: Star Wars. TV show: Big Bang Theory. Book: any James Patterson or Dan Brown book. Team: Chicago Bears.
Q. Who is the best athlete in your respective sport you’ve ever gone up against?
A. I have wrestled many outstanding athletes through the years. The most impressive would have to be Tristan Macri from Mishawaka.
Q. What are your goals for your future? Do you plan on attending college?
A. Currently I am undecided. I want to study mechanical engineering so Purdue is a great fit for me, but my dream college is MIT.
Each week during the school year the Pharos-Tribune recognizes an athlete from one of five area high schools. The recipients are selected by each school’s athletic department.