ALVAREZ ADJUSTS TO CENTER STAGE.
At 5-foot-10, 265 pounds, David Alvarez wasn't going to turn the heads of any four-year schools while playing offensive tackle.
As a center, however, his squat body and quickness would at least give the Antelope Valley College sophomore a chance to extend his football career.
The only hitch for Alvarez - who will join his teammates in hosting Santa Ana College in Saturday's McDonald's Community College Bowl - was learning how to play the position. Prior to last spring, the Palmdale High School graduate had never made a snap to a waiting quarterback.
Nonetheless, he made the transition look easy.
All he did was start all 10 regular-season games this year, rarely missing a play.
A part-time starter at tackle as a freshman, Alvarez had to do a double-take when he recently saw his name on the blackboard located in the hallway of the school's gym.
``Some teammates were with me and said `Hey Dave, your name is up there,' '' Alvarez said. The list turned out to be AVC's All-Foothill Conference selections. Alvarez made the first team as a center.
What Alvarez did was bail out AVC offensive line coach Mike Martinez, who scrambled to find a patchwork center in spring drills.
``We had just lost (all-conference center) Chris Holder and I didn't have anybody who had ever played center before,'' Martinez said.
Alvarez was Martinez's choice in spring practice, though it wasn't such a quick transition for Alvarez.
``I was really nervous at first. I think my snaps made (quarterbacks Brad Norris and Michael Gleich) their fingers get a little nicked up,'' Alvarez said.
Norris was much kinder on his new snapping partner.
``It was easy. (Alvarez) caught on pretty fast. We worked through what little problems we had,'' Norris said.
The work Alvarez got in the spring was dwarfed by an extensive offseason weight-training program coordinated by Martinez.
At the conclusion of the 1996 season, Alvarez was benching maybe 270 on a good day. By the following August, he was up to 385.
``We've few players have that kind of improvement,'' Martinez said. ``He worked really hard on the weights.''
Alvarez found his extra strength helped him to subdue similarly stout nose guards and defensive tackles.
``Switching from tackle to center was much harder,'' said Alvarez, a guard at Palmdale who was converted into a tackle during his freshman season.
With such a dramatic improvement in one season, you would think small colleges would be invading the Marauder Stadium practice field in search of Alvarez. But he's heard from no one and probably wouldn't be able to continue on without a scholarship.
``It's frustrating,'' he said. ``I guess I don't look too good to any recruiters.''
His position coach would disagree.
``We've had a pretty good success rate with all of our offensive linemen in the eight years that I've coached here,'' said Martinez, who said 90 percent of Marauders who played two full seasons on the offensive line have found a home at four-year schools.
``We're not talking about a dumb guy here, either. He's a good guy and a good football player. I know there's a four-year school that would love to have him.''
MCDONALD'S COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOWL
Santa Ana (7-3) at Antelope Valley (7-3)
Kickoff 5 p.m. Saturday
AVC season log
Sept. 13 Moorpark 33, AVC 19
Sept. 20 AVC 9, Kings River 7
Sept. 27 AVC 35, Southwestern 31
Oct. 11 Mt. San Jacinto 28, AVC 7
Oct. 18 AVC 28, Desert 7
Oct. 25 AVC 21, Citrus 14
Nov. 1 AVC 48, Chaffey 14
Nov. 8 AVC 26, Grossmont 14
Nov. 15 San Bernardino 21, AVC 20
Nov. 22 AVC 51, Victor Valley 7
Box: MCDONALD'S COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOWL (See Text)