CALISTOGA — It has been 14 years since an undersized but dynamic two-way star led Calistoga High to a CIF North Coast Section Div. V title.
The Wildcats enter Friday’s home game against Stellar Prep (Hayward) with a 5-0 record, their best start since 1997.
Two years later, in 1999, 5-foot-8, 140-pound running back/linebacker Ben Alfaro (cousin of current Calistoga player Danny Alfaro) led the Wildcats to their first section title since 1978.
Right now, Calistoga has its own undersized 5-8, 170-pound ball of fire leading the way at running back and linebacker in Dylan Alvarado.
The Wildcats senior has compiled 1,098 yards rushing on 98 carries and 14 touchdowns. Entering Friday’s contest, he has tallied 205 carries, 2,411 yards and 30 touchdowns in less than two years.
Alvarado has twice eclipsed the Wildcats’ single game rushing mark.
On Sept. 20 in a 32-14 win over California School for the Deaf, Alvarado carried 29 times for 265 yards and three touchdowns. The yardage total broke a single game record set by Jason Tamagni (255) in 2001.
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On Sept. 27, Alvarado shattered his own record by carrying 31 times for 407 yards and seven touchdowns (also a school record).
Alvarado is just 567 yards shy of breaking Corey Beck’s single season mark of 1,665, set in 1986. Beck also owns the single season record for rushing touchdowns with 22. On the career front, Alvarado needs seven touchdowns to equal Beck’s career mark of 37. He is 1,037 yards shy of Louie Giammona’s career mark.
“To me, it is more important that we win our games than me getting any records,” Alvarado said. “It’s more of a team effort. I know I couldn’t do anything without my teammates.”
The offensive line combination of Walker Hughes, Mark Duffy, Logan Bounsall, Austin Pereira, James Prager, Edgar Avina, Juan Martinez and tight end Alfaro have created holes for Alvarado.
Several of the current Wildcats were part of the resurgence of Calistoga’s youth football program, the Cubs. The youth program folded in 2004-2005 due to lack of players. Calistoga head coach Paul Harrell is entering his third season at the helm of the Wildcats. He also spent four years coaching the current roster for the Cubs.
Harrell recalled the first time he met Alvarado.
“When he was about 5 years old is when I met him,” Harrell said. “He was playing football in my driveway with my son (Orion). He was making turns that a jackrabbit couldn’t make. I realized at that time that he was either super special or my kid was super slow.”
Orion Harrell is now the Wildcats’ quarterback. Alvarado added that years of playing together have helped enormously.
“Most of us have been playing together for seven or eight years,” Alvarado said. “It really translates on to the field because we are so familiar with each other and know exactly how to play as a compact unit.”
Alvarado’s running style is such that he is capable of beating opponents with his speed, quickness, elusiveness or power. In a nutshell, he weighs 170 pounds, but is capable of running like he’s 240.
“If you measured his muscle mass maybe he would have been 240,” Harrell said. “He’s chiseled and that’s from his heart to his feet to the top of his head. We are very blessed to have a young man like that.”
When asked if he has a preference on how to beat teams, Alvarado quipped: “It really depends on the situation. I enjoy both styles of running. I like running past people without touching me.”
Running back is not the only place Alvarado has shined. As a linebacker, he has tallied 22 tackles and an interception.
“Sometimes I have to come out of the game because I made a long run,” Alvarado said. “I love playing linebacker as much as running back. I’m happy I get to play both.”
Alvarado has drawn some interest from schools but is uncertain what the future holds in terms of football. However, he would like to become a firefighter.
However, no one has been able to extinguish his competitive fire to date.
“Ever since I was involved in any type of competitive thing, I have always had a drive to win,” Alvarado said. “I hate losing more than I like winning.”