BLUEFIELD — Snow was a rare occurrence for Gil Alvarado growing up in West Texas.
Welcome to Bluefield.
“It was crazy, I have never experienced something like that,” said Alvarado, after Bluefield’s 37-20 loss to No. 5 Georgetown last Saturday at snowy Mitchell Stadium. “We have probably had sleet before at practice just because a cold front came in.
“We don’t get a lot of rain first of all so to have snow and to be playing in the snow, it was a pretty big deal. My feet were frozen, when you hit people it is a lot harder, especially when you go up to linebackers, you feel like are hitting a brick wall.”
A 6-foot-2, 290-pound freshman offensive lineman from Midland, Texas, Alvarado was thrilled to get the opportunity to play against the Tigers, a three-time NAIA national championship team. He expects to see Bluefield at the same point in the near future.
“It was a great experience, definitely a memory that will go into the history books forever, and to play Georgetown, they were a really good team, they were No. 5 in the nation when we played them,” Alvarado said. “Their D-Line was pretty good too so we got to see where we needed to be at.
“In a couple of years it is going to come together and we are looking at hopes of winning the national championship pretty soon.
Alvarado is one of several young offensive linemen for the Rams. He played guard at Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas, but has played everywhere else for the Rams, starting one game at right tackle, two at center and has also seen action at left tackle.
“I play where I can, whatever makes the team better, that is has always been my motto, whatever helps out the team.” said Alvarado, who is the best snapper on the team, according to Bluefield head coach Ordell Walker. “I guess I am pretty good if he says I am pretty good, but don’t really like to take credit for that.
“I didn’t really play center in high school, I played guard and got recruited as a tackle and now I am playing center so I have been everywhere.”
Football teams are built in the trenches, and the Rams are evidence of it. The only non-true freshman starter is junior right guard Jed Halla, who will lead Bluefield (3-6) against No. 10 Lindsey Wilson (7-2) in the home finale on Saturday.
“(Halla) is the veteran, he helps us all out, we are all very young, but we are getting it done, that is the best way to put it, and we are all coming together as a team,” Alvarado said. “It is not just the O-line, it is the running backs like Sam Bennett, (Adrian) Pope, Marion Harris.
“I love blocking for them because they give us all credit so that just motivates the O-Line to better, and the whole offense.”
That line has been doing its job, and the unit even has its own motto. The run-based Rams are currently fifth in NAIA with 312.1 yards per game, while Bluefield’s 33.1 points a game is 22nd in the nation.
“We love it, it shows that we are improving, but we just have to get better,” Alvarado said. “That is not the best we can be, we have much more potential. We have four freshmen starting on the O-Line and we have one returning redshirt sophomore, Jed, so we have just got to improve...
“We don’t focus too much on winning, we focus on dominating every rep so the more you dominate every rep, everything will fall into place. We are going into this game trying to dominate, at whatever position you are playing, we are just going to dominate and dominate and dominate.”
That unit has done just that at times as the season has progressed, and the results show it.
“You have just got to find the click to it, you have just got to ‘push the ship’, like we say, you have just got to ‘push the ship’, just keep pushing the ship, and it will get there sooner or later and that is what we are doing,” Alvarado said. “We are going to keep improving and hopefully we will win this next game against Lindsey Wilson, they are a pretty good team.”
That is also the home finale. While Bluefield has won broken through and won three games this season, the Rams still haven’t won at Mitchell Stadium.
“It is our last opportunity, it is senior night so we want to let the seniors go out with a win for their first home win in (recent) program history,” he said. “Hopefully we can do that, they are a very good team, they are going to come down here, and we are both going to be going after it.
“Our whole team, our defense has improved over the games, everyone is getting better, it is a team effort and that is what is helping us out a lot.”
Alvarado has done his share to help the Rams, having first arrived in Bluefield last April on a recruiting visit. He was hooked, even if it meant relocating to a totally different part of the country.
“I fell in love with the place, it was just a pretty nice place to play football and go to school, real friendly, and everyone was really nice to me on my visit,” said Alvarado, who is majoring in business administration, with a dream of working in the oil industry. “I had never been on the East Coast, this is my first time on the East Coast so that is probably one of the reasons I came up here, it is really nice over here.”
He was one of nearly 60 new faces who arrived for practice in August, and quickly earned his way onto the field.
“Everyone is a lot faster, a lot stronger, they know the game a lot better, you have just got to mentally prepare yourself,” Alvarado said. “Once you get used to the speed...when we played Pikeville the first game, I am not going to lie, I was nervous, I got blown up, but it kicked in, ‘pick up my game’ so I picked up my game.
“You have just got to get used to the game speed, there is a different game speed too.
Alvarado comes from a family of football players, many of whom played at renown Odessa-Permian High School. He wound playing his prep football in El Paso, Texas.
“I kind of got into football because of my dad, I had a lot of uncles that played for Odessa-Permian in high school,” he said. “I was born in Midland and we moved to El Paso and I finished high school there so I was kind of inspired my whole life.
“My dad pushed me, and we have a lot of athletes in our family. It was pretty much a lot of my family growing up playing football, and motivating me to do better and better, and genetics kicked in and everything worked out.”
Having the opportunity to play in one of the more fertile recruiting grounds in the country was certainly an experience to be cherished.
“West Texas football, there is nothing like it, there is a lot of competition every week,” he said. “I am just blessed to be where I am today. It is just hard work, hard work pays off ultimately, there is nothing like it, it is a dream come true.”
So is playing at the next level.
“I am loving it right now,” he said, with a smile. “It is football, it is college football, there is nothing like it in the world.”