SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – After a state semifinal appearance in 2019 spearheaded by one of the best senior classes in program history, the Jenkins Warriors slightly fell back down to earth in 2020.
There’s a new sheriff in town to lead the program back to the promised land. Well, *kind of* new.
“I’ve had a lot of success here in Savannah, had a lot of success as I went back home,” first-year head coach Tony Welch explained. “If you could have the best of two worlds it would be this — I’m leaving home, but I’m coming back home if that makes any sense”
Back in the 2010s, Welch was the head coach at Savannah High School and led the Blue Jackets to their first winning season in 21 years, per Prep Sports Report. Before that, he was the head coach at Memorial Day School and won four state championships as an assistant coach on the Matadors’ staff from 2008 to 2013.
Now, he’s back in the Coastal Empire and ready to make an imprint on another Savannah program.
“As a Claxton native, I bleed black and gold, but now I bleed red and grey,” Welch said with a smile. Welch won’t be the only change for Jenkins in 2021. The offense, which used to be run-pass option, will now work primarily out of the “Wing-T” setup.
“We’ve got a big offensive line and we want to lean on people,” Welch said, when asked about the offense. “I tell them it’s very simple, it comes down to who runs the best and who tackles the best.”
The Warriors’ offensive line appears to be a strength headed into the new season. Right guard Ashton Jackson, who stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 310 pounds, would likely be the biggest offensive lineman on any other team in the city of Savannah. It just so happens that Larry Johnson, who comes in at 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds, is teammates with Jackson in the trenches.
“I love putting people on their back,” the massive left guard Johnson said. “I might dive on them while they are already on the ground and do a little dance or something. I told my teammates I need them to bring me some syrup for every pancake that I get.”
Welch wants to create a competitive atmosphere in practice — one where every player feels like he can battle for a starting job every week. The Warriors seem to have bought their new coach’s mentality almost immediately.
“Welch? I like Welch — I like his energy,” defensive end and tight end Tavion Gadson explained. “He stays on you and he shows you tough love. Always.”
Tonight on WSAV at 11, sports reporter Connor DelPrete brings you the sights and sounds from a Jenkins Warriors’ practice.