On they worked Thursday morning, a group of kids clamoring one by one up the bleachers with a metallic clatter and another with its contingent sprinting out on the track. Offense, defense, Cougars 2010, and one can easily tell who’s worked out over the summer and who has not.

The summer, a quick sprint of its own, is for all intents over now, as by the time you read this, area football teams will be on day two or three of two-a-days. As the city clubs went back to the rockpile, it was North that came in ranked highest of the three.

After a week of unofficial two-hour strength-and-conditioning sessions, the Coogs had done all they were going to be able to do; now it was time to get down to business and see what was what.

“I think we had a pretty good summer all told, especially most of the varsity kids,” said coach Roy Garza, beginning his sixth season at the helm. “For one reason or another, some of the guys have obligations, and others choose not to be here to work out. But for the most part, I think we did what we had to do this summer, on the weights especially.”

Truly, the workouts without supervision between terms usually tell the tale of how a team will fare in the fall. It’s easy to see if the lineman didn’t lift enough, as they get blown off the line of scrimmage or fail to get a push on a block. No one can hide the toil they have done, or lack thereof.

“We’ve got a good group, some really promising underclassmen who will get a chance to step in and contribute, particularly on offense,” said Garza, whose group has become a playoff regular the past three seasons. “We’re at the point now that the kids know what is expected of them.”

The best thing about being North - picked second in District 31-5A by the experts at Texas Football Magazine after a 9-win 2009 campaign - is that a winning tradition is starting to take root. Garza said that all the kids in camp grew up seeing successful ventures ahead of them, and are dead set on continuing the run.

“I think the upbeat point is the numbers, we have about 250 kids total, and they come from levels where they won,” he explained, mentioning that on the sub-varsity, all four teams were district champs or close. “When we first got here, the kids were wondering if maybe they could win; now they know they can because it’s been done before.”

A quick glance at the Cougar depth chart reveals a wealth of experience and talent on defense, with several noticeable holes to fill on the other side of the ball.

“That’s the way it goes, it seems to alternate every other year,” said Garza, who led the Cougars to the program’s deepest penetration into the playoffs ever. “A couple of years back we had some holes on defense so most of the incoming talent ended up on that side of the ball. Now we have to retool the offense.”

In this, the 20th season of Coog football, the club expects to contend for the league title. If some of the heretofore unknown names can come through on the offensive line and at receiver positions, this could end up being another banner effort.

“We still expect some of these kids to switch positions based on need, that’s a given at this point,” said the coach, sweating freely in the swelter of the mid-morning. “We’ve had good luck in the past with guys ending up in the right position. Sometimes a kid knows that the best chance he has to see the field is to fill a need.”

In recent years, Randy Ramirez (cornerback to quarterback) and Marco Adriana (receiver to running back) are a couple of the notables who bounced around before finding a home. This season Garza will plug in former defensive back Roosevelt Munoz as the feature back to replace departed 1,000-yarder Simon Edwards, and thinks that the muscular speedster will be the answer for the running game.

“We’re excited to get started, we didn’t have spring ball for the first time in a few years, so there are a lot of questions to answer,” he commented. “Every year, we set about assessing our needs and getting our work in. Summer went fast, and now it’s time to get after it.”

NOTES: This week, North will practice every morning starting at 8, and then return to the field for an evening workout beginning at 6 p.m. After three preseason scrimmages, the season opener is Aug. 26 at home against Brownsville Pace, a playoff team a year ago.

2010 NORTH FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Thursday, Aug. 26

Brownsville Pace at North

Friday, Sept. 3

North at Sharyland

Friday, Sept. 10

North at Donna

Thursday, Sept. 23

North at P-SJ-A

Friday, Oct. 1

P-SJ-A Memorial at North

Friday, Oct. 8

EHS vs. North

Thursday, Oct. 14

North at Harlingen

Thursday, Oct. 21

North at Pharr North

Friday, Oct. 29

North at Harlingen South

Friday, Nov. 5

North vs. Econ