As they return to the field for another season, the three city high school football teams know that they’ve got a chance to make the grade, and it all starts now. Both EHS and Econ began Aug. 3 with North a week behind due to its having had spring ball.

The scrimmages begin in two weeks, after the teams have gotten used to the bumps and bruises of padwork and the slow two-a-day grind toward adequate conditioning. Everyone knows that it’s easy to be a summer superstar, more difficult to get it done when the helmets come out of mothballs.

So, we are at the latest season’s beginning and who among us knows what will happen in 2009? Expect all three Cat clubs to be in the running in District 31-5A, with the Coogs the preseason city champ in the making after two straight 7-win seasons. But the Jags and Bobcats could break through for a super season, and pass North on the way, as both squads have some real upsides this time around.

For Econ, the key is, are the freshmen who won district a few years ago ready to make that kind of achievement on the varsity level. Now that Nelson Hampton and Victor Salinas are upperclassmen, they are set to lead the Orange into the fray, and it’s a big year for the program. After successive non-losing campaigns, they fell back last year with a 2-8 showing. It was a tough league, and the Jags had some real bad breaks, so one can probably write off the downer of a season as an anomaly.

For EHS, it all depends on depth. Skill-wise, the ‘Cats have some of the best in the Valley, not just city or district. Especially at receiver, Edinburg is loaded and if a potentially great offensive line can give quarterback Isaac Escobar some time to find them, it could be lights out, or on actually, for the ‘Cats, 4-6 a year ago. They also return outstanding linebackers and the entire secondary from last season.

As for North, well the Coogs are solid for the third straight time, with the main question coming on the offensive line and at running back. How quickly the relatively inexperienced blockers can pave the way for burly Simon Edwards will tell the tale. On defense, look for a quality performance from front to backline.

This is a rebuilding year for 31-5A, as top three teams Harlingen, Pharr North, and P-SJ-A graduated a total of 46 kids who made All-League in 2008. So the way is wide open for all eight clubs to make some noise in the hunt for the postseason.

North starts the ball rolling Aug. 28 at Cats Stadium against Rio Grande City, with Econ taking in Porter on the road. Both those opponents should be playoff-worthy this year, especially the Rattlers, a speedy group with some real fliers.

Edinburg gets going Sept. 3 against McAllen High, a power last year but a team dealing with heavy grad losses.

District play starts Sept. 24, with North facing the test of the year at home against Harlingen. But equally as important are the annual city grudge matches. Econ versus North comes Oct. 9, with the Jags taking on EHS Oct. 16 and the Bobcats battling North in the regular-season finale Nov. 6.