What ever happened to the summer as down time, when kids and coaches alike took a long break from the football wars to spend their days relaxing and taking it easy?

Forget about it in this day and age, as the Edinburg Bobcats have been occupied since May with a number of innovative camps and clinics to go along with traditional summer workouts in the weight room.

Coach Joey Caceres was about to embark on a brief vacation with his family last week, set to take off to the Flying J Ranch in Bandera for the last hurrah before things get serious as July continues. The third-year ‘Cat leader has been sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury that has curtailed his usual strenuous running and lifting routine this summer. But he notes that the program has been anything but dormant since school let out in June.

“This has been a great summer for us in so many ways,” said Caceres Wednesday night, as he drove back from McAllen, where he’d been watching the unbeaten Bobcat 7-on-7 team toss it around at Memorial Stadium. “We have so many things we have started to do during the summer, and the goal is to get the kids involved and help them stay involved. That way we are ready when two-a-days hit.”

Caceres credits the latest incarnation of the Bobcat Football Booster Club with a share of the accolades for enlivening the program this offseason. The Club is working diligently to gain new members and plan all sorts of events and improvements for the upcoming season, including helping sponsor the first Bobcat Football Camp, to run July 27 through July 29.

“It’s for kids grades seven through nine, they’re invited in to learn skills, and so that the coaches can get to know them,” Caceres said. “We’re excited about it, we have the staff working it plus a bunch of volunteers. The Booster Club has been a big asset for us for the camp.”

The coach is counting on the community to continue to back the Bobcats like it has in the past, saying that, “We want to get everyone together on our side of town, so the kids know we are all behind them. The Boosters have been excellent and it’s all part of trying to stir the pot a little, do something different, so that we get everyone going. That way, when two-a-days start, there’s already a sense of anticipation and excitement.”

To that end, the program hosted the inaugural Lineman Challenge back in June, a 16-team affair that featured eight different strength-and-coordination events such as the truck push, sandbag toss, and tractor-tire roll. Caceres noted that skill-position guys like passers and receivers have had 7-on-7 for the past few years, but that the lineman, so often forgotten, have been left out of the dance. Until now.

“We qualified Eli Eyzaguirre to go to state, so we’re fired up about that,” he commented, adding that assistant coach Johnny Galvan, who handles the team’s trenchers, was instrumental in putting the Challenge together. “Coach Galvan did a great job with that thing, and we hope to make it a regular event each year.”

As for the latest Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, which selected the Bobcats seventh in the 8-team District 31-5A, Caceres was nonplused.

“Good, we like it that way, we’re the underdogs,” he said, suggesting that the team can compete for a playoff spot after a 4-6 mark in 2008. “I think Harlingen is a little ahead of everyone right now, but if we work hard like we’ve been doing and things break our way, we will battle for at least second.”

Still, the veteran leader says that the team — whose motto this year is “No Doubt” — will step onto the field expecting to win every time.

“We want 10 and 0, of course, like every team,” he explained. “That’s what our motto is about, we want the kids to come out there thinking that there is no doubt they are going to compete to the best of their abilities and win each game.”

EHS starts the fall workout process Aug. 3 with the two-a-days grind, and will have three scrimmages before the season opener at McAllen High. The ‘Cats tackle Brownsville Rivera on the road and then have McAllen Rowe and a home match against Los Fresnos leading up to the McHigh contest.

“The summer is flying by, let me tell you,” Caceres laughed. “It seems like it moves faster every year.”

He mentioned the finale of 2008, when the Bobcats came within an eyelash of upsetting rival North and inching into the playoffs. A last-second long bomb fell incomplete and the Coogs escaped with a narrow win.

“You know, last year, we ended up on a good note…could have been better, but still, it was a solid ending. I told the kids then to get ready because August was going to come quicker than they think. And here it is! We’re ready and excited, and with all the new things we have been doing, with the support of the Booster Club, we think this year is going to be outstanding all the way around.”