JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Of the guests who stopped by the Burnet Middle School library to honor coach Randall Alford on his retirement, two of them crashed the party.The eighth-graders weaved their way to their coach, who sat at a table with his wife, Ione, and daughter Kim on March 28.
“He supported me through everything,” running back Clint Ringstaff said. “He changed me. He made me do better in class, he made me do better in sports. I’ll miss him.”
“He was awesome,” lineman Thomas Westermann said. “He always treated us like his family. I always worked harder for him.”
In every way, Alford, who spent the past 20 years in the Highland Lakes area coaching at Burnet, Lampasas and Marble Falls schools, still has the same enthusiasm and drive he had when he started his career. He says he’s not tired and still wakes up excited to see his players and mold them into young men who contribute positively to society.
And, in every way physically, except one, Alford’s movements match his drive. But it’s when he begins to walk, his limp is noticeable. And when he sits or gets up, it’s obvious his right knee bothers him.
“My original (career) goal was 45 years,” he said with a smile. “I got to 44. It sounded like a good goal.”
Alford first came to the Highland Lakes in 1989 as the offensive coordinator for the Marble Falls High School football team, working for his old friend David Denney. The two coached together at Houston Memorial High School.
“I knew what kind of coach he was and what kind of man he was,” Denney said.
Marble Falls was on its way to a 2-8 record that first season. But the Mustangs got a big win to end the year, beating undefeated and pre-district favorite Dripping Springs 39-0.
That started a golden era in the program. During the next four seasons, the Mustangs posted a 43-7-2 record and made the playoffs all four years with an appearance in the 1992 Class 3A semifinals, the best finish in the program’s history. Marble Falls lost to Coldspring 32-29.
By 1994, Marble Falls moved up to Class 4A and were 3-7 that season. That finish motivated the players during the offseason, then-quarterback Stan Whittle said.
“I’m glad I was in the position when it happened,” Whittle said. “Our coaches believed (we could be successful), but the players didn’t believe in ourselves.”
By the end of the 1995 regular season, the Mustangs were 7-2-1 and were co-district champions. They lost in the area round to Bastrop.
“I love that feeling, to be able to bring it back,” Whittle said, “Alford had it. Number one, he got us ready to play. We always felt like we were better conditioned and better prepared. And he could make those adjustments.”
Once Denney resigned in 2000, Alford did, too. He spent three years coaching and teaching in Lampasas and five at Burnet Middle School as the boys athletic coordinator.
“In middle school, I think you can have an effect on kids at all levels,” he said. “You have a greater effect on junior high athletes as far as their development. That’s when (players) aren’t sure. My goal is this: Help each boy become a good man and a good daddy.”
He’ll research his options on the best way to treat his knee. And hopes to attend two-a-days with a team in August.
Alford laughed when asked which program he loved the most: Marble Falls, Lampasas or Burnet.
“All three of them are very similar,” he said. “All three have great kids, they really do. I love them all.”