Matt Welsey had an amazing rise up the football ladder during his freshman year at Shawnee. He played six games on the freshman team, moved up to the JV and then in the final regular season game, found himself the varsity starting quarterback.
That was 2018 and Shawnee ended up winning the South Jersey Group 4 championship, with Welsey at quarterback.
He would continue running the offense in what became a record-setting career.
Welsey, the all-time leader in passing yards in Burlington County history, is continuing his education and football career at Division II Kutztown, which participates in the highly competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
He said he liked everything about the school and the football program and was highly impressed by the competition after attending a game this past season.
“I saw Kutztown against Millersvile and their guys looked like Division I athletes and I was impressed,” he said. “The stands were filled and the atmosphere was great and everybody was flying around, looking like Division I athletes.”
That is an excellent point because one tends to think that if a player doesn’t go Division I, whether it is an FBS or FCS school, that the competition is lacking.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does a player have to be great to play Division I, but they have to for Division II or Division III.
Remember, even on the Division III level, virtually everybody on each team was once a high school all-star.
As for Welsey he understands that just as in high school, he will have to battle for the quarterback position.
“The offensive coordinator at Kutztown said there will be competitive and if you love football you have to compete every single day for a starting job,” Welsey said. “I started four years but I know it will be a little different so I am going to fight every day and I understand it takes time to develop.”
Still, Kutztown is getting a major dual threat in the 6-foot, 190-pound Welsey.
Last season he completed 165 of 260 passes for 2,750 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for 591 yards and 20 touchdowns on 133 carries.
Shawnee went 8-4 while competing in South Jersey’s toughest conference – the WJFL American Division. The Renegades won two playoff games to advance to the South Jersey Group 4 final before losing to a talented Winslow Township team, 34-22.
In his four seasons, Welsey helped Shawnee win two South Jersey Group 4 titles and compete in a third title game.
Shawnee bounced back from an uncharacteristic 1-6 season during his junior year, one that was misleading to say the least.
Playing one of the toughest schedules in the COVID-shortened South Jersey season, Shawnee lost four games that year by a touchdown or less.
“After that season our main goal was to put Shawnee back on the map,” Welsey said. “After a 1-6 season nobody thought much of Shawnee.”
That changed quickly when the Renegades opened with 38-0 win over Kingsway.
Keep in mind that Kingsway would eventually rebound and win the South Jersey Group 5 championship.
So Shawnee did rebound quite nicely. Just the same way that Welsey adjusted to being a varsity quarterback.
When Welsey was a freshman, he assumed the starting quarterback spot late in the season. The varsity was 2-5 but Shawnee was assured of qualifying for the playoffs due to its incredible strength of schedule.
The quarterback had been senior Joe Dalsey, who had been a tight end. Coach Tim Gushue decided to replace Dalsey with Welsey. Dalsey became a dominant running back and Welsey took over at quarterback.
“He told me the day after we had played, so I had six days to think about what to do next game,” Welsey recalls. “I was super nervous and probably was overthinking every situation but I had such a great senior class who helped me out so much and took me under their wing.”
Shawnee lost that last regular season game, 27-21 to Rancocas Valley, but then beat Mainland, 25-8 in the first round of the playoffs before winning two nail-biters, 28-26 at Millville and then 17-14 in double overtime at Clearview in the sectional final.
Shawnee repeated as SJ Group 4 champion in 2019 in more dominating fashion. The Renegades beat Ocean City, 28-0 in the sectional final and then defeated Hammonton, 34-0 in the South/Central regional championship.
Shawnee rebounded from the aforementioned 1-6 season in 2020 to go 8-4 and make yet another sectional final appearance in 2021.
For his career Welsey passed for 6,532 yards and 57 touchdowns, according to Shawnee coach Tim Gushue. Welsey also ran for 1,015 yards and 33 scores.
Most of all, he kept improving each season. Gushue feels his former quarterback will prosper on the next level.
“He was like a coach on the field,” Gushue said. “He knew where to go with the ball. His ability to pass and run made him difficult for defenses to defend.”
Welsey, who also excelled in lacrosse, said he hopes to major in the business field. He has already developed an affinity for following stocks and trading.
As he mentioned, he understands each day will be a battle in football and the same goes for the classroom, but Welsey is up for the challenge.
He aced climbing the ladder to be the quarterback in high school and he is hoping to have similar results in college.